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The immense diversity of opinion among those intRODUCTION who alike appeal to the Scriptures as the source of their beliefs is not, I think, without significance in relation to the present subject. Surely the very existence of such diversity is of itself an indication ti at the Bible is by no means as yet understood in all its completeness, that though it be a completed revelation its meaning is still far from being exLausted. If, then, it comes to pass that, from time to time, new truths are out of it brought to light, and that former inferences from it are corrected or modified, this is after all only what should have been anticipated. For, as up to the close of the written Word it was the divine method to impart truth in successive and progressive portions, one portion not only supplementing but even sometimes correcting the notions gathered from a former, so seems it to be the will and purpose of God, since those revelations were completed, that his Church should not all at once, but gradually and progressively, attain to the knowledge and understanding of what this written Word reveals. And, indeed, with this end in view, the Word of God seems to have been so framed as to be in some measure for a veil as well as for a revelation. It consists of a “letter,' and of a “spirit,' of an outer form and of an inner meaning; and its structure is such as to need for its full understanding an accompanying illumination,
the opening of the mind,” “the enlightening of the Eph. i. 18. eyes of the heart.'
. What our Lord said more particularly of his parables holds good, more or less, of all Scripture, that it is plain only to them to whom it is given to know the mysteries of the king- Matt, xiü, 11.
Luke xxiv. 45.
Mark iv. 12.
A ts r., xi.
INTRODUCTION dom of heaven. Until, in other words, the spirit
of wisdom ’is imparted, even the best of men often strangely misconceive God's Word ; by hearing they hear but do not understand, and seeing they see and do not perceive. Until the time comes when it pleases God to give to his Church the needful illumination, what strange ignorance and misapprehension it manifests about what subsequently becomes so plain. It was really revealed in the Old Testament that the Gentiles were to be fellow heirs with the Jews of Messiah's salvation, and yet the most pious and learned Jews could not and did not see it ; nay, even inspired Apostles only gradually learnt it in its fulness. Though the truth was contained in the Old Testament, yet it was 'a mystery’ not made known until it pleased God that his Church should understand it. How plainly it was written in the law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms that the Christ must first suffer before He could enter into his glory, and yet the Church of the Old Testament perceived it not; nay, even though again and again repeated by our Lord Himself, the disciples could not discern or receive it until Jesus opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.' So has it been with other truths, that while they were in the Divine Word men saw them not till the time came for them to be discerned. In short, it is with the Church as it is with the individual believer, it does not all at once attain to maturity of knowledge in divine things, but has to grow therein, and to get from age to age additional discoveries of God's Truth.
Luke cxix. 45.
It is not unfrequently urged as an objection to INTRODUCTION the doctrine of the ultimate reconciliation of all souls to God, that while it has never, indeed, been without witness on the part of individuals, the Church as such has never either adopted or formally sanctioned it. I do not wish to make light of this objection, yet I am free to confess that it does not dismay me, when I call to mind how the inclusion of the Gentiles in the blessings of Messiah's kingdom, though really so distinctly foretold in the Old Testament, remained a mystery to the Jewish Church, even the Apostles failing to discern it until it was made known to them by a special illumination. May it not be that the doctrine now in question is a mystery,'hidden for the present from the Christian Church, but in due time to be recognized by it, when it shall please God to open the eyes of his people to see it in his Word ? That it is in the Word I am most fully assured, and I cannot but think that the time is not very far off when the Church shall come to see and to acknowledge it ; and when, in the same spirit that the Apostles and brethren who were in Judæa, on being convinced of the calling of the Gentiles, glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repent- Acts ci. 18. ance unto life,' good men will lift up their hands in holy joy and surprise, at the discovery of a hope in regard to their fellow-men, so infinitely larger than it had before entered into their hearts to conceive or understand.
To the discussion and elucidation of this subject the following pages are devoted. But I have thought it well, by way of introduction, to endeavour
INTROTUCtion to clear the path for the argument, by showing that
an old belief is not necessarily a true one, and that what seems to be a new doctrine is not necessarily an untrue one ; that as it pleased God, in the first instance, to give his revelation in successive and progressive portions, so has it pleased Him to give the understanding of that revelation gradually and progressively ; removing former misapprehensions, and causing his Church to see from time to time in his Word what it did not see before. And thus at the last, may be, will be brought to pass, what the Prophet has expressed in those singular and significant words, ' At evening time it shall be light.'
I venture to entertain the hope that the reader will be prepared to give to the discussion of this subject a candid, prayerful, and patient attention. In conducting the argument nothing shall be advanced but what, to my own mind at least, is clearly in accordance with Holy Writ. I ask, then, for no more indulgence at his hands, than that with the noble-mindedness of the Beræans, he will search the Scriptures whether these things be so. * I speak as unto wise men: judge ye what I say.'
Zech. rio. 7.
Acts rii. 11.
1 Cor. x. 15.
THE SPECIAL CHARACTER AND PURPOSE OF
THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST.
The prevailing aspect, under which the divine economy of redemptive grace is most prominently represented, is that of a kingdom. In prophecy and parable, in promise and statement, the idea of a kingdom is an ever-recurring one in relation to Christ as the Saviour of the world. In proof of this it will suffice to point out how often Christ is called a King ; how, consistently with this, He is spoken of as judging and reigning ; how his advent is described as a coming in his kingdom, or Matt. xvi. 28. as the coming of his kingdom ; how a kingdom is promised to his followers, yea, participation in his Luke xii. 32; kingdom, a sitting on his throne; how the con- Rev. iii. 21. version of men to Christ is called a translation into Col. 2. 18. the kingdom of God's dear Son; how entrance into his everlasting kingdom is set before us as 2 Pet i. 11. the consummation of the grace given to us ;
how the gospel of our salvation is called the gospel of Matt. iv. 23. the kingdom; and how we are taught by our Lord to be ever praying, “Thy kingdom come.'
Now, in all this there must be some real significance. It cannot be, I mean, that a term so pointedly and perpetually recurring is a merely
Matt. vi. 10.