"The night is far spent; the day is at hand."—Rom. 13:12.—
In the midst of the great revolutions of thought in this wonderfully revolutionary period which the Scriptures term "The Day of Jehovah"—"the day of his preparation" for the Millennial reign of Christ, it is refreshing to observe that the dim outlines of God's real purpose are already beginning to dawn upon the minds of sincere thinkers who are not yet prepared for such a radical transformation of their theological views as God's plan of the ages makes manifest to others of God's believing watchmen on the towers of Zion.
While echoes from the pulpits of eminent theologians in the great cities savor strongly of the rankest infidelity, which strikes at the very foundation doctrine of Christianity—the atonement through the precious blood of Christ—we see that a few are beginning to get their eyes open to the real truth. They begin to see "men as trees walking;" and as the signs of the Master's presence become more and more manifest in the events of this day of his presence, all who preserve the attitude of disciples will be led into clearer light more or less rapidly, according to the measure of their earnestness, diligence and freedom from sectarian and other prejudices. Below we give some extracts from Mr. Talmage's discourse of Sunday, Sept. 8th, on the above text—"The day is at hand"—which we consider quite remarkable.
They give evidence that Mr. Talmage is getting awake, though he has not yet arisen from the old creed bed which is evidently too short for him and its coverings uncomfortably narrow. (Isa. 28:20.) Yet, rubbing his eyes, he recollects the divine promise of coming day as he hears the great clock of the ages strike the hours of early morning, and sincere faith and the noble impulses of a generous nature catch the inspiration of the prophet-apostle, and he re-echoes his words—"The night is far spent; the day is at hand!" While we cannot endorse all that this eminent Christian brother says on the subject, but must here and there offer criticism, yet we rejoice that the gentleman and his thousands of hearers and readers have been brought face to face with so much truth so forcibly and so widely promulgated. Mr. Talmage said:—
"I find a ray of the dawn in the compression of the world's distances. What a slow, snail-like, almost impossible thing would have been the world's rectification with 1,400,000,000 of population and no facile means of communication; but now, through telegraphy for the eye and telephonic intimacy for the ear, and through steamboating and railroading, the 25,000 miles of the world's circumference are shriveling up into insignificant brevity. Hong Kong is nearer to New York than a few years ago New Haven was; Bombay, Moscow, Madras, Melbourne within speaking distance. Purchase a telegraph chart, and by the blue lines see the telegraphs of the land, and by the red lines the cables under the ocean. You see what opportunity this is going to give for the final movements of Christianity. A fortress may be months or years in building, but after it is constructed it may do all its work in twenty minutes. Christianity has been planting its batteries for nineteen centuries, and may go on in the work through other centuries; but when those batteries are thoroughly planted, and those fortresses are fully built, they may do all their work in twenty-four hours.
"The world sometimes derides the Church for slowness of movement. Is science any quicker? Did it not take science 5,652 years to find out so simple a thing as the circulation of the human blood? With the earth and the sky full of electricity, science took 5,800 years before it even guessed that there was any practical use that might be made of this subtle and mighty element. When good men take possession of all these scientific forces, and all these agencies of invention, I do not know that the redemption of the world will be more than the work of half a day. Do we not read the queen's speech at the proroguing of Parliament the day before in London? If that be so, is it anything marvelous to believe that in twenty-four hours a divine communication can reach the whole earth? Suppose Christ should descend on the nations—many expect that Christ will come among the nations personally—suppose that tomorrow morning the Son of God from a hovering cloud should descend upon these cities. Would not that fact be known all the world over in twenty-four hours.
"Suppose he should present his Gospel in a few words saying: 'I am the Son of God. I come to pardon all your sins and to heal all your sorrow; to prove that I am a supernatural being, I have just descended from the clouds; do you believe me, and do you believe me now?' Why, all the telegraph stations of the earth would be crowded as none of them were ever crowded, just after a shipwreck. I tell you all these things to show it is not among the impossibilities or even the improbabilities that Christ will conquer the whole earth, and do it instanter, when the time comes."
Here, after drawing an excellent lesson, Brother Talmage greatly mars it by one of his astounding suppositions. His difficulty is, that he is depending too much upon his own imagination and has not noted that God's Word reveals exactly what his great work is, and how it will be done when his "due time" shall have arrived, and that he has not left us to our various and imperfect suppositions.
It is a fact abundantly supported by Scripture as well as by common sense, as Mr. T. intimates, that the past six thousand years have been God's time for preparing the world (by many sad disappointments) for his blessing and kingdom, and also for preparing those who shall be God's agents and instruments in that work of general blessing. The first 1656 years of earth's history, down to the Deluge—the period of the ministration of angels—showed to angels and to men the inability of angels to recover fallen man. In fact, by the fall there of some of the angels (Compare Heb. 2:5; Jude 6; and 2 Pet. 2:4,5, with Gen. 6:2-4.) it became manifest that evil was very contaminating and demoralizing even to the pure, and could only be dealt with as a plague—stamped out. During the Jewish age, God illustrated through Israel and the Law that by the deeds of the law no flesh could be justified in God's sight and that the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin, but were at the very most types or illustrations pointing forward to the "better sacrifices" which God had intended from the very first. Thus 4000 years elapsed before even a basis of reconciliation between God and his condemned human creatures had been provided. And yet, the delay had not been too long, for the record is that it was "in due time God sent forth his Son" to redeem the world and thus to lay the foundation for their reconciliation with God. Now over 1800 years more have elapsed, and God's Word declares that his work during this period has been the electing or selecting of a very choice class from among men—a worthy remnant of Israel who received Messiah at his first advent (including the apostles) and a similarly faithful and tried class from among all nations since—in all a "little flock," "a peculiar people," "a royal [R1155 : page 3] priest-hood." And these have been "called" under the express promise that when a fore-ordained number shall have been selected and tried and found worthy, then this select company shall be made glorious spiritual beings and be united with Christ Jesus their Lord, in order that as joint-heirs with him they may be the promised "Seed" (Gen. 12:2,3; compare Gal. 3:16,29) in which all the families of the earth shall be blessed. These are "called" to suffer with Christ in the present time (to thus show their love and devotion to him and the truth) and to reign with him in an age to follow this, in which, they are told, they are to judge [grant trial to] the world and also angels. (See 1 Cor. 6:2,3.) And it is to the end that they may be very sympathetic judges and teachers (kings and priests unto God and for men) that, as their leader was, they now are required to be tempted in all points.
But while agreeing that the past 6000 years have gotten fully ready for the conquest of the world for God, we must dissent from the view expressed by Brother Talmage, that this conquest will be accomplished in a day of twenty-four hours. That Immanuel, the new king, who is to take his great power and reign, establishing that Kingdom of God, for which he taught us to pray, "Thy Kingdom come," could, if he desired, introduce it by a marvelous demonstration in the sky that would affright the world and convince all men of his "all power in heaven and in earth," we do not for one moment question. And that by such a process he could wring from every throat the cry, "I believe," we do not dispute. But such is not the work which our Lord comes to do, is our objection. The Scriptures declare a different object and a different method. To bend the knee and cry, "I believe," is not the sum of God's requirements. If so, Christ's reign might indeed terminate quickly—in a day of twenty-four hours. But if it is to be thus sudden and by an outward display of power, where was the use of the long preparation? Why spend 1800 years selecting and educating and disciplining the elect church for that oft declared work of reigning with Christ and judging the world in righteousness, if the entire period of reigning and judging is to be twenty-four hours? And if the plan should be carried out as Mr. Talmage suggests, wherein would be found the usefulness of the great preparations God has been making for this coming work?—the telegraphs and telephones and printing presses, etc.: would they not be next to useless for such a conquest? If this be the method, it might have been carried out without any of these latter-day preparations and long ago. Had such been his method our Lord could have appeared in such a cloud and waiting there for 24 hours, he could in thunder tones have spoken to and been seen by every living creature of earth far more forcibly than by descending to one of the great cities, to telegraph and telephone his arrival all over the world, or to have newspaper Extras of his proclamation gotten out on lightning presses and sent by Limited Mail trains.
But no; with no such unseemly haste will God's great plan, for which the past six thousand years have been only the preparatory steps, be consummated. How apt we are to get into a hurry and to expect God to do so too. How apt we are to forget what the prophet declared and the apostle repeated that a thousand years in God's sight are but as yesterday, a day with the Lord as a thousand years with men. Christ comes to reign; "he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet;" and he shall reign, and the church of the first resurrection with him, for "a thousand years."—1 Cor. 15:25; Rev. 20:2,4.
When he who redeemed all in due time, shall likewise in due time set up his kingdom, it will be so ordered that it will afford ample opportunity for the overcoming saints, as his joint-heirs, to put fully into exercise in dealing with the sick, deaf and blind world all the preparatory lessons which they have received in the present age;—restoring the willing ones back to all the favors and blessings lost in Adam and redeemed for them by Christ's all-sufficient ransom-sacrifice.
The telegraph, telephone, improved printing presses and rapid mail service will each and all, too, have their part to do in that great work of carrying the "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" (Luke 2:10); in testifying in due time, to all, the ransom accomplished, the reconciliation possible, and the conditions of the new covenant; in causing the knowledge of the Lord to fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.—1 Tim. 2:5,6; Isa. 11:9; Hab. 2:14.
It will not be sufficient that men shall cry out, "I believe;" for devils also believe and tremble. The reign of Christ will not be for the purpose of showing how many can be brought to believe; but for the purpose of testing and trying the world, after they have come to a knowledge of the truth—after they have "believed," to prove whether they shall will to be in harmony with God and obedient to him and his perfect law of love. God proposes to give back through Christ perfect life and all that man lost through disobedience, but only to such as accept of Christ, as Redeemer and King, and who, surrendering self-will, shall come so fully into harmony with God that they will hate sin and love righteousness. And before giving everlasting life to any, God proposes to take more than a mere profession; hence the coming age is called an age of judgment—an age of trial and testing, in which all mankind (except the few who have full knowledge, and hence full trial, now) will be tried fully, justly, impartially, with every favorable opportunity, before Christ, the Judge of all. (Acts 17:31.) Then these who love sin and will to serve it will be separated as [R1155 : page 4] goats from those "sheep" whose delight is in the law of the Lord (love). The one class shall receive the blessing and gift of God—everlasting life—while the other shall receive the penalty of sin—death—this time "the second death," the result of the second trial, as the first death was the result of the first trial of our race representatively in Adam. But, because an individual condemnation, the result of a full, complete, individual trial, under full knowledge and with every advantage, it is a finality with them—an everlasting cessation of life, from which there will be no awakening, from which none will ever be redeemed—for "Christ dieth no more." (Rom. 6:9.) His work is to be so thorough and complete as to need no patching. He will reign until all enemies are put under his feet—subdued, destroyed. (1 Cor. 15:25.) Let us note, however, that the word enemies here applies not to the ignorant millions who have never known the Lord, but only to those who, when brought to a full knowledge and full ability, are willingly and knowingly the opponents of righteousness. So then, the great work, just at hand, is not the work of a twenty-four hour day, but the great, grand, God-like work of the Millennial day. It is this great "Day of Christ" that is at hand; announced by the great clock of the ages. Look further, look closer, Brother Talmage!
"There are foretokenings in the air. Something great is going to happen. I do not think that Jupiter is going to run us down or that the axle of the world is going to break, but I mean something great for the world's blessing, and not for the world's damage, is going to happen. I think the world has had it hard enough. Enough, the London plagues. Enough, the Asiatic choleras. Enough, the wars. Enough, the shipwrecks. Enough, the conflagrations. I think our world could stand right well a procession of prosperities and triumphs."
Ah yes! Men should begin to see that the imperfections of climate, and disturbances and irregularities of air, sea and land are not the best that God has power to do for man, and would not be good enough for the friends of God; but they are parts of the curse, parts of the penalty of sin, which are to be done away under the glorious reign of Immanuel, when, through him, God shall wipe away all tears, and when there shall be no more curse. But Brother Talmage is in error, when he says, "Enough" of these has been already experienced. God's Word declares that there is yet a great and final shaking up of church and world to take place. (Heb. 12:26-28.) Daniel's prophecy speaks of it and locates it right here, saying, "At that time shall Michael [Christ] stand up [assume control], and there shall be a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation." (Dan. 12:1.) The apostle James (5:1-7) also foretold this trouble. Thank God that, though a severe lesson, it will be a final one, bringing the world to its senses. After it the peoples will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain [kingdom] of the Lord. He will teach us his ways and we will walk in his paths."—Isa. 2:2-4.
"Better be on the lookout. Better have your observatories open toward the heavens, and the lenses of your most powerful telescopes well polished. Better have all your Leyden jars ready for some new pulsation of mighty influence. Better have new fonts of type in your printing-offices to set up some astounding good news. Better have some new banner that has never been carried, ready for sudden processions. Better have the bells in your church towers well hung, and the rope within reach, that you may ring out the marriage of the King's Son."
Good! Brother Talmage. We are glad to see that you with us are looking for the union of the Bridegroom to his long-espoused bride, the church. Yes, then the marriage bells, the joyous bells, may well be rung! for then the Spirit and the Bride shall say, Come, and whosoever will may come and take of the water of life freely.—Rev. 22:17.
"Cleanse all your court-houses, for the Judge of all the earth may appear. Let all your legislative halls be gilded, for the great Lawgiver may be about to come. Drive off the thrones of despotism all the occupants, for the King of heaven and earth may be about to reign."
What is this we hear? Has Mr. Talmage turned "Socialist?" Hear him: "Drive off the thrones of despotism all the occupants; for the King of heaven and earth may be about to reign." Aye, this is socialism—of the heavenly, Bible sort, however. Surely the utterer of these words remembered that it was written by the prophet, "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall break in pieces and consume all these." (Dan. 2:44.) It is a mistake to suppose that the great ones of earth, now in power, will recognize the principles of the new era, the Day at hand, and voluntarily resign the power and offices which at so great cost they have so long held on to. No; as Mr. Talmage puts it, they will have to be driven off their thrones. [The saints, however, fight not with carnal weapons and will have nothing to do with this driving.] It is this necessary driving of the political kings and money kings of the world out of power, this cleansing of legislation and the courts of justice, that must come so surely as the new King comes, and the new Day, that will cause the great time of trouble foretold by the apostles and prophets. He continues:—
"One more ray of the Dawn I see in facts chronological and mathematical. Come now, do not let us do another stroke of work until we have settled one matter. What is going to be the final issue of this great conquest between sin and righteousness? Which is going to prove himself the stronger, God or Diabolus? Is this world going to be all garden or all desert? Now let us have that matter settled. If we believe Isaiah and Ezekiel and Hosea, and Micah and Malachi, and John and Peter, and Paul and Christ, we believe that it is going to be all garden."
Hark! That is the Restitution note, Vox Jubilante! Praise the Lord! Brother Talmage must have been studying as well as resting during his summer vacation. He has found a stop in the Grand Organ of divine harmonies that he never found before. Praise the Lord! we are delighted to know that he has an ear and a voice for this restitution music—the new song. He has, no doubt, given attention to the Apostle Peter's announcement; for in his words above, he almost quotes Peter's expression in Acts 3:19-21: "Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you, whom the heaven must retain until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." Well begun, go on, Brother Talmage and, as promised, let us hear from you this vox jubilante of restitution frequently hereafter.* Mr. Talmage proceeds:—
*In his discourse Mr. T. intimated that like as a new set of reeds with a new stop had been put into the organ in his Tabernacle, so he had added a new set of harmonies to his mental organism, to which the discourse quoted from gives the tone and key;—and he declared that it should be heard frequently during the pastoral year just begun.
"But let us have it settled. Let us know whether we are working on toward a success or toward a dead failure. If you are in a cyclone off the Florida coast, and the captain assures you the vessel is staunch and the winds are changing for a better quarter, and he is sure he will bring you safe into the harbor, you patiently submit to present distress with the thought of safe arrival. Now I want to know whether we are coming on toward dismay, darkness and defeat, or on toward light and blessedness. [Surely one or the other.] You and I believe the latter, and if so, every year we spend is one year subtracted from the world's woe, and every event that passes, whether bright or dark, brings us one event nearer a happy consummation: and by all that is inexorable in chronology and mathematics I commend you to good cheer and courage. If there is anything in arithmetic, if you subtract two from five and leave three, then by every rolling sun we are going on toward a magnificent terminus. Then, every winter passed is one severity less for our poor world. Then, every summer gone by brings us nearer unfading arborescence. Put your algebra down on the top of your Bible and rejoice."
No; no, Brother Talmage, it is the Bible, not the algebra, that is fulfilling. Let us, then, keep the Bible on top—and let us keep it open. It is the light to our path, the lantern to our footsteps; therefore we are not in darkness that that day should overtake us as a thief. (1 Thes. 5:4.) Let us lift up the lamp and keep it uncovered. Let the light shine. He proceeds:
"It is nearer morning at three o'clock than it is at two; if it is nearer morning at 4 o'clock than it is at three, then we are nearer the dawn of the world's deliverance. God's clock seems to go very slowly, but the pendulum swings and the hands move, and it will yet strike noon.
"There is a class of phenomena which makes me think that the spiritual and the heavenly world may, after a while, make a demonstration in this world which will bring all moral and spiritual things to a climax. Now, I am no spiritualist; but every intelligent man has noticed that there are strange and mysterious things which indicate to him that perhaps the spiritual world is not so far off as sometimes we conjecture, and that after a while from the spiritual and heavenly world there may be a demonstration upon our world for its betterment. We call it magnetism, or we call it mesmerism, or we call it electricity, because we want some term to cover up our ignorance. I do not know what that is. I never heard an audible voice from the other world. I am persuaded of this, however, that the veil between this world and the next is getting thinner and thinner, and that perhaps, after a while, at the call of God—not at the call of the Davenport Brothers, or Andrew Jackson Davis—some of the old spiritual warriors, some of the spirits of other days, mighty for God—a Joshua, or a Caleb, or a David, or a Paul—may come down and help us in this battle against unrighteousness.
"Oh, how I would like to have them here—him of the Red Sea, him of the valley of Ajalon, him of Mars Hill. History says that Robert Clayton, of the English cavalry, at the close of a war, bought up the old cavalry horses, lest they be turned to drudgery and hard work, and bought a piece of ground at Navesmire heath and turned those old war horses into the thickest and richest pasture to spend the rest of their days for what they had done in other days. One day a thunderstorm came up, and these war horses mistook the thunder of the skies for the thunder of battle, and they wheeled into line—no riders on their backs—they wheeled into line ready for the fray. And I doubt me whether, when the last thunder of this battle for God and truth goes booming through the heavens, the old Scriptural warriors can keep their places on their thrones. Methinks they will spring into the fight and exchange crown for helmet, and palm branch for weapon, and come down out of the King's galleries into the arena, crying: 'Make room! I must fight in this great Armageddon.'"
After removing much of the rich hyperbole and rhetorical clothing from this mental picture, we find beneath it all something more real perhaps than even Brother Talmage realized in this passage. The Lord, the apostles and all the overcomers of the Gospel age will indeed be present in the earth and take a part in the great conflict, figuratively called "the Battle of the Great Day of God Almighty." But not visibly, nor with carnal weapons, need they be looked for, but as spirit-beings, powerful and yet invisible, like the angels, as we have found the Scriptures to plainly teach. (See DAWN, Vol. II.) There is indeed to be, and that ere long, a great demonstration by the heavenly church and a restoration of olden-time communication between heaven and earth (Gen. 18:1,2; 19:1; Luke 22:43; Matt. 4:11) of which Spiritism's lying wonders and communications are but slanderous counterfeits of Satan, to deceive and lead into error and to the rejection of the Redeemer, if it were possible, the very elect. Thank God, his Word shows clearly and positively that the enemy hath now but a short time and will soon be bound, restrained, that he can deceive no more during the thousand years of Christ's reign.
And there will be others here toward the close of this "battle"—the patriarchs and prophets of old, "until John," will be joining in at the last, after the last members of the body of Christ have been "changed" from human to spiritual beings. And these, though not bloody warriors, will be visible men—perfected MEN. "Ye shall see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom." Not from the skies shall these light down, but from the dust of the earth they shall be awaked perfect men, samples of the grand estate to which all may attain by obedience to the regulations of that Millennial Kingdom—of which these perfect ones will be the earthly representatives and exponents.
As the overcomers of the Gospel age are to be joint-heirs with Christ, sharers of the new spiritual dominion over earth, which is to bless all the families of the earth, so the overcomers of the previous time, though not called to heavenly honors and nature, are to be associated in the Kingdom work of blessing as the earthly seed of Abraham, who shall inherit the earthly portions of the promises made to Abraham (Rom. 4:12-16,17), that the promise might be sure unto all (both parts of) the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but unto that also which is of the faith of Abraham [aside from the Law]—who typified him in whom he believed, even God.
Of these noble old patriarchs [fathers] in whose genealogy Mary and Jesus are found, it is written: "Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes [rulers, chief ones] in all the earth." (Psa. 45:16.) And this will be literally fulfilled when Christ as King appoints those resurrected and perfected men as the rulers, exemplars, and teachers of men. For they were his fathers in the sense of being Mary's progenitors, and they will become Christ's children and he their everlasting father, and father to all men who shall be restored to the Eden-lost perfection and to everlasting life, in that he who redeemed the world [R1157 : page 5] is to be also the Restorer and Life-giver (Father) to all the willing and obedient. Mr. Talmage closed his discourse thus:—
"Brother! brother! all I am afraid of is, not that Christ will lose the battle, but that you and I will not get into it quick enough to do something worthy of our blood-bought immortality. O Christ! how shall I meet Thee, Thou of the scarred brow, and the scarred back, and the scarred hand, and the scarred foot, and the scarred breast, if I have no scars or wounds gotten in the service? It shall not be so. I step out to-day in front of the battle. Come on, you foes of God, I dare you to the combat. Come on, with pens dipped in malignancy. Come on, with tongues forked and viperine and adderous. Come on, I defy you! Come on! I bare my brow, I uncover my heart. Strike! I cannot see my Lord until I have been hurt for Christ. If we do not suffer with Him on earth we cannot glorify with Him in heaven. Take good heart. On! On! On! See! the skies have brightened! See! the hour is about to come! Pick out all the cheeriest of the anthems. Let the orchestra string their best instruments. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand."
Grand sentiments, noble resolves, which our hearts, one and all, we trust, re-echo—faithfulness to Christ, self-sacrifice in his service, in the service of the truth, at any cost, gladly, heartily, quickly, before "the night cometh, wherein no man can work." For, though the glad morning is drawing close, the prophet warns us that the short, but sharp, terrible time of trouble precedes it, saying: The morning cometh, but a night also.
But heed not the shadows, fear not the trouble, if you are a member of the faithful consecrated, "The King's Own," for he is on your side as well as you on his side. He has promised, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. He has, even when telling us of the troubles impending at the present time, said, "Then lift up your heads and rejoice, for your redemption draweth nigh." And praise God for the light which now shows that the redemption or glorification of the church, the body of Christ, is but the first step in the great Redeemer's saving and restoring work, and that full opportunity of deliverance from sin and death shall yet be granted to every creature by the great Deliverer.