BOOKS: BIBLICAL STUDIES (1500BC-AD70) / EARLY CHRISTIAN PRETERISM (AD50-1000) / FREE ONLINE BOOKS (AD1000-2008)
"The truth is, if the different comings of Christ are distinguished, as
they ought to be, we shall find, that the apostles have spoken of each
of them according to truth ; and that the opinion which infidels are so
eager in maintaining, and which some Christians have unadvisedly
espoused, to the great discredit of the inspiration of the apostles, as
if they believed the day of judgment was to happen in their lifetime,
hath not the least foundation in Scripture."|
"The truth is, if the different comings of Christ are distinguished, as they ought to be, we shall find, that the apostles have spoken of each of them according to truth ; and that the opinion which infidels are so eager in maintaining, and which some Christians have unadvisedly espoused, to the great discredit of the inspiration of the apostles, as if they believed the day of judgment was to happen in their lifetime, hath not the least foundation in Scripture."
Dividing Line Between Destruction of Jerusalem and General Judgment - Definitely By Matthew 24:44, Though Perhaps Intermixed Prior
(On Matthew 12:43)
(On Romans 9:22)
(On 1 Thessalonians 2:16)
(On 1 Peter 4:17)
Aion - World / Age)
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
"Milligan writes: "To me at least it seems perfectly obvious that the Apostle refers here to a day that was then very near at hand: a day that was about to come on that generation, and try the faith of many. And hence I am constrained to think with Macknight, Scott, Stuart, and others, that the reference is most likely to the day of Jerusalem's overthrow" (Commentary on Hebrews, p. 284)." (That Day" and forsaking the assembly )
When the foregoing sheets were nearly printed off, a new Translation of the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, with a Commentary and Notes, by Dr. Macknight, the Author of the Harmony of the Gospels, &c. was presented to the public. My concern with these epistles appeared to me too considerable, to overlook what a writer of his eminence has said upon those passages, which have fallen within my plan.
But though I cannot, upon a careful perusal of this part of his work, agree with him in every thing he says, concerning the different comings of Christ mentioned in the New Testament; yet it has given me great satisfaction to find him saying, "that the Apostles, by the coming of Christ, which they represented as at hand, when they wrote their epistles, meant his coming to establish his spiritual kingdom over all people, nations, and languages, and not his coming to put an end to the world; it is evident from what Christ himself told them, Matt. xvi, 28; There be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." And agreeably to this account of the coming of Christ, and the end of all things, he observes, that every passage of their epistles, in which the Apostles have spoken of these things as at hand, may, with the greatest propriety, be interested of Christ's coming to establish his own everlasting kingdom over all people, nations, and languages, by destroying Jerusalem, putting an end to he law of Moses, and spreading the Gospel through the world.
These observations are supported by many passages from the New Testament, which the reader will find in Dr. Macknight's preface to the 2nd epistle to the Thessalonians, p, 68.
But notwithstanding we agree upon this part of the subject, yet we differ widely in our ideas of some passages in the two epistles, which he has applied to the day of final judgment, but which, I think, relate to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem; particularly upon I Thess. v, and 2 Thess. 2.
In the preface before mentioned, this respectable writer has, with great judgment and ability, exposed and confuted the opinion of some great men; that the Apostles entertained an idea that the day of final judgment was then near at hand; which he very justly stiles, a most pernicious error. But it appears to me, that it was farther necessary, effectually to vindicate the character of the Apostles, to show that they, none of them, by their writings, gave any reason to suppose, that they had such an opinion.
Almost all the commentators assert, that the Thessalonians actually did mistake the Apostle, and imagined that he spoke of its being at hand. And if St. Paul, in the 5th chapter of his Ist epistle, spoke of the day of judgment, he could not well have chosen a language better calculated to raise such an idea in their minds. Verse I --- !'Now concerning the times and the seasons:' (concerning the day of judgment,) he tells the Thessalonians, that they knew perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh "as a thief in the night;" that they were not in darkness as to that event, and that therefore it became them "to watch and be sober," that is, to wait with earnest expectation of its approach.
The fault therefore, according to this interpretation, was not in the Thessalonians, but in the Apostle who wrote so, that he could not be understood in any other sense; and as a proof of it, almost all the commentators have supposed him to speak of the day of final account, though they do not, for obvious reasons, allow that he spoke of it, as being near at hand.
But the truth, I believe, is, that both the character of the Apostle, and of the Thessalonians, are free from all imputation of blame in this matter. They neither of them ever entertained such an opinion as has been attributed to them; but the one wrote with a clearness and perspicuity, which was perfectly intelligible to the other. And Dr. Macknight himself acknowledges, that the messenger, who carried the Apostle's first letter to the Thessalonians, had informed him, that they were exceedingly strengthened by it, and bare the persecution, which still continued as violent as ever, with admirable constancy.
I have shown, in the foregoing enquiry, that the Apostle's argument rests entirely upon the meaning of the words "times and seasons:' in the Ist verse of this chapter, which I have endeavoured to ascertain from the clear, indubitable sense of the same expressions in other parts of Scripture. If I have failed in this, I confess, I have laboured to very little purpose, and can neither understand the Apostle here, nor in the 2nd chapter of the subsequent epistle, which is generally agreed is closely connected with it. The sense of the latter must be governed by that of the former.
Dr. Macknight has observed, in his commentary upon the 2d chapter of the 2d epistle; that the Apostle reprobates the opinion imputed to him, that he thought the day of Christ was at hand. But I can find no traces of such a reprobation in his assertion, that that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first," but only that it was not so near at hand, as some had insinuated to the Thessalonian Christians. But this matter will, I think, be put beyond all doubt, by placing before the reader, at one view, the language of our Lord, as recorded by St. Luke, and that of St. Paul, in the chapter before us.
JAMES MACKNIGHT, D.D.
Da. James Mackjcight was bom on the 17th of September, 1721. His father Mr. William Macknight, minister at Irvine, was a native of Ireland, where his ancestors, descended from the family of M'naughtank in the Highlands of Scotland, had resided for more than a century, and where some of his relations still remain. Mr. William Macksight early displayed very popular talents as a preacher; and having, it is said, accidentally officiated in the church of Irvine, some time after the death of the former incumbent, he gave so much satisfaction to die hearers that he was soon appointed to supply the vacant charge. In this situation he continued during life, universally esteemed for genuine piety, purity of morals, and integrity of character. He married Elizabeth Gemmil, daughter of Mr. GemÍiil of Dalrjith—a small property in the neighbourhood of Kilmarnock, which had been in possession of the same family for several centuries, and which Dr. Mackxigut afterwards inherited in right of his mother.
By this marriage Mr. William МАСКХЮПТ had two daughters and four sons ; of whom the youngest, and only o; e now alive, is Thomas Mackmght, Esq. of RjÜio, a gentleman who in early life signalized himself, during the American war, by the most eminent services as a loyalist, and who, since his return to his native country, has long been distinguished by his unusual activity in the prosecution of agricultural improvements on the most liberal and extensive scale.
Mr. Ja.ves Macknight, the subject of this narrative, received the rudiments of education at the school of Irvine, and about the age of fourteen was sent to the University of Glasgow, where he studied with great approbation from his teachers, on account of his diligence and proficiency. The notes he then took from the Lectures on Logic and Moral Philosophy, before he was sixteen, still remain among his papers, and afford remarkable indications of the same acuteness and soundness of judgment which afterwards characterized his theological writings.
Having completed the usual course of academical discipline at Glasgow, Mr. Mackmght went to Leyden, in order to prosecute the .study of theology, to which he h ul shown an early attachment. While he staid in Holland, he had an opportunity of procuring many valuable books written by foreign divines, which afterwards assisted his own labours in explaining Scripture. After his return to Scotland, having received from the Presbytery of Irvine a license to preach the gospel, he was chosen to ofliciate at the Gorbals, near Glasgow ; a situation which at that time could be held by a licentiate of the Church, before being ordained to the pastoral function. On this occasion, one of the candidates was Mr. Hubert Hbmiy, afterwards the well known historian of Great Britain. It is somewhat remarktble, that the same gentlemen who thus happened to be placed in competition with each other at the commencement of life, were at last, after an interval of many years, associated a« colleagues in the charge of the Old Parish Church of Edinburgh, a connexion which subsisted till the death of Dr Низгат, in the most cordial habits of friendship and intimacy.
From the Gorbals Mr. Macknight went to Kilwtnning, in consequence of an invitation from Mr. РЕВОСЬeo!t, then minister of that place, and acted for some time as his assistant in the charge of the parish. Here he conducted himself with such propriety, that hie character began to be established ; and, on the death of Mr. Fisher at Maybole, he obtained the vacant living there, with the concurring wish of the heritors and people. Of this charge, accordingly, he was ordained as minister on the 10th of May, 1753. At Maybole Mr. Mackmgiit continued sixteen years, and discharged the" duties of the pastoral office with such assiduity and kindness, that when he left it, he carried with him the allbctions and regret of all his flock.
It was at Maybole that, amidst his professional occupations -in a populous charge, Dr. Mackxight composed the first and second of his Works. Of the former, indeed, on the Harmony of the Gospels, it appears from his papers, that the plan had been conceived by him so early as the third or fourth year of his attendance at the university, and from that time he began to collect materials for the publication. The first edition of this book was published in 1756. Although the plan of it differed considerably from that of former Harmonies, in supposing that the Evangelist« have not neglected the order of time in the narration of events, the reception it met with from the most competent judges was so favourable, that the author was encouraged to undertake a second edition, with considerable improvements and additions. This edition appeared in 1763. In the same year \vae also published by Dr. Macknight another performance of great merit, entitled, The Truth of the Gospel History, which had been the fruit of the author's studies during the interval between the first and second editions of Ыз Harmony. Its object is, to illustrate and confirm, both by argument and by appeal to the testimony of ancient authors, what are commonly arranged under the three great titles of the Internal, the Collateral, and the Direct Evidences of the Gospel History.
By these publications Dr. MackÏibht soon obtained a high reputation for theological learning. The University of Edinburgh conferred on him (among the first who obtained that distinction in Scotland) the degree of Doctor of Divinity ; and he was chosen Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1769. During the course of the same year he was translated to the parochial charge of Jedburgh, in which he remained about three years, and where he received from his people the most flattering tokens of respect and kindness. In 1772 he was elected one of the ministers of Edinburgh. His first charge was the Parish of Lady Ycsters, from which he was translated in 1778 to the Old Church, where he continued during the remainder of his life.
The lives of the learned commonly oflcr little else to our curiosity, than the simple record of their studies and writings. This observation, often made, is peculiarly applicable in the present instance. After he took up his residence in Edinburgh, there were few occurrence» in the life of Dr. Млскмыгг which can be made the subject of narration. Besides performing the ordinary duties of the pastoral function, a minister of Edinburgh, in virtue of his office, is much occupied with public meetings on business of various kinds, especially the management of the different charitable foundations which have long been the boost of the capital of Scotland. Among other objects of snch official care is the Fund established by Act of Parliament for a Provision to the Widows and Children of Ministers in the Church of Scotland. As one of the Trustees appointed by the Act, he had long taken a leading part in conducting the business of this charity ; and when the growing prosperity of the Fund had paved the way for an increase of its capital, Dr. Macknight was nominated by the Trustees, along with the celebrated Dr. Webstf.ii, (to whose benevolent exertions this valuable institution was much indebted for its establishment), as a Commissioner, to solicit a renewal of the Act of Parliament This accordingly was obtained in 1779 ; fixing the capital at £100,000, and making other alterations for the benefit of the Fund. After the death of Dr. Wbbsteh, Dr. Mackxioht was appointed joint Collector with Sir H. Moxchikfp Wf.ilwood, Bart. ; a colleague whose great ability and talents for business peculiarly qualified him, as experience has since shown, for the important office which he still holds, with the highest credit to himself and advantage to the Fund.
The line of conduct which Dr. Mack^ikht pursued with regard to the points of ecclesiastical policy that have long divided the members of the Church of Scotland, was different from what might have been presumed, in consequence of the first impressions on these topics which, it is probable, he had received from his father. But after mature deliberation, with that manliness and self-decision which marked his character, he adopted the principles that wore to regulate his future conduct in the Church Courts ; and, throughout life, he acted steadily on that system of ecclesiastical policy which, for many years past, has guided the decisions of the General Assembly. At the same time, he firmly resisted whatever appeared to him as any infringement on the constitutional law or practice of the Church ; and accordingly, when some of his friends seemed to wish for the abolition of calls, as an unnecessary form in the settlement of ministers, he moved and carried a resolution of the Assembly, 1782 (relative to certain overtures on the subject, then under the discussion of the house), " Declaring, That the moderation of a call in settling ministers, is ajrecable to the immemorial and constitutional practice of this Church ; and that it ought to be continued :" a resolution which was afterwards converted into a Declumtory Act, and printed as such in the proceedings of the Assembly for that year.
Of Dr. Macknight it may in general on this head be recorded, that no member of the Church to which he belonged ever, perhaps, entertained more just or profound views respecting the great fundamental principles of her constitution and laws, or concerning the nature and distinctive powers of her several judicatories ; and that in relation to the business which usually occupies the General Assembly, either in its judicativc or in its legislativo capacity, he always formed a clear, sound, and decisive judgment. On this account he was often consulted by the leading members of that Court ; and, on several important occasions, his professional advice and assistance were of essential service to the magistrates of Edinburgh, with regard to the ecclesiastical arrangements of the city.
But what chiefly engaged his mind, and occupied his time, after he became a minister of Edinburgh, was the execution of his last and greatest work, on the Apostolical Epistles; which was published in 1795, in four volumes quarto. Respecting this work it is perhaps
not unworthy of being told, that it was the result of the unremitting labour of almost thirty years ; that notwithstanding his numerous professional avocations, the author, while composing it, was seldom less than eleven hours every day employed in study ; and that before it came to the press, the whole manuscript had been written no less than five times with his own hand. At the time of publishing ' The New Translation of the Apostolical Epistles, with a Commentary and Notes,' Dr. Млгкшинт was highly indebted to the patronage of the Duke of Grafton ; and after the work made its appearance, he received the most honourable testimonies of approbation from many of the Bishops and respectable dignitaries of the Church of England, as well as from the ablest divines of all descriptions.
After the publication of this work, Dr. Mackkioht considered himself as having accomplished the greatest object of his life ; and wishing to enjoy, at the end of his days, some relief from the labour of study, he resisted the repeated solicitations of his friends, who earnestly urged him to undertake the illustration of the book of the Acts, on the same plan which he had so successfully followed in the explaining the other parts of the Nexv Testament. But soon after this period, from the want of their usual exercise, a sensible decline of his faculties, particularly a failure of his memory, was observed by his family. This fact is a striking instance of the analogy between the powers of the body and those of the mind, both of which suffer by inaction ; and it furnishes a useful caution to those who have been long habituated to any regular exertion of mind, against the once desisting entirely from its usual efforts ; since the effect, in the course of nature, is not only to create languor, but to hasten the progress of debility and failure.
As yet, however, Dr. MackiÍibut's bodily vigour seemed to be but little impaired. In early life he was afflicted with frequent headachs ; but after he hail reached the age of thirty, they seldom returned ; and he afforded a singular instance of a sedentary life long continued, with hardly any of those complaints which it usually induces. This uninterrupted enjoyment of health he owed, under Providence, to a naturally robust make, and a constitution of body uncommonly sound and vigorous ; along with regular habits of temperance, and of taking exercise, which he did by walking nearly three hours every day.
Having finished the task he had prescribed to himself as an author, he mingled frequently in the society of his friends, from which, at intervals, he had always received much enjoyment; and long retained the same cheerfulness of temper for which, at the hours of relaxation from severe study, he had been remarkable, when in the company of those whom he esteemed. Even after the symptoms of his decline were become visible, his natural sagacity and strength of judgment, as well as his extensive and familiar knowledge of the Scriptures, were still to be discerned in his conversation and public a(>pearances ; and so habitual was his anxiety to discharge his duty, that he insisted on officiating for a considerable time after his friends had wished hinrto withdraw from public 1а1юиг. It was not, indeed, without much entreaty, that he at last consented to accept the services of an assistant.
At this period of his life it was peculiarly fortunate for him, that in Dr. Giiikvf., who became his colleagu* after the death of Dr. Нкхпт, he found a companion of the most amiable manners, and a friend of distinguishc'il worth and respectability, from whom he experienced every office of attention and kindness. When he was at length no longer able to prosecute his favourite studies, the judicious opinions, and extensive information of his very accomplished and learned colleague, frequently afforded
him in conversation a source of interesting entertainment These proofs of respect and attachment have laid bis family under perpetual obligation ; and gratitude forbids, that any account of him should bo given to the world without an acknowledgment of the friendly assiduities which cheered and supported Ыз declining years.
The disease which terminated his life was the Peripneumonia Notha, occasioned by an incautious exposure to the «everity of the weather, about the end of Deccm
1 ber, 1799. This distemper, in its progress and issue, rcbisti'd the ablest and most assiduous efforts of medical »kill. During his illness, his mind was composed, tranquil, and resigned ; he never complained ; and on the morning of the 13th of January, 1800, he expired without a struggle. As in the course of the preceding night
_ he slept but little, the time was employed in hearing pasajes from the Psalms and Evangelists, which by his own Л'.-ire were read to him by one of his family. Thus, having spent his life in illustrating Scripture, and exerted the 1ы efforts of his attention in listening with delight to its prrcious words of peace to the righteous, he may be truly sjjj to have slept in Jesus.
The character of a man whose life was devoted to a angle object of incessant study, can hardly be expected 11 afford scope for much variety of delineation. Perhaps the circumstances which have been related, sufficiently indicate its prominent features ; and we might leave the consideration of it with observing, that it was strongly marked by vigour, firmness, good sense, and unbending integrity. Yet we shall find, on a near inspection, that il iä not unworthy of being contemplated more minutely ; because it exhibits some traits of professional virtue, on which the mind may, for a little, dwell with pleasure and advantage. Such examples in real life illustrate the excellence of pure religion ; and it is with peculiar interest that we read descriptions which make us familiarly acquainted with those who have contributed, by their labours, to the instruction or the consolation of mankind.
As a clergyman, the sentiments and conduct of Dr. Macks i o Ht were equally characterized by consistence and propriety. In the discharge of every public and private duty of religion, with a constant reliance on divine aid, he was regular and steady. He knew and felt what became the sacred office which he held ; and never departed on any occasion from the dignity or decorum of his professional character. Having given himself -wholly te the meditation of divine things, he continued in them : In the -work of ids Master he -was steadfast and faithful Ч the end. His piety was at once sincere, rational, and without ostentation. To be useful in the cause of truth iad virtue, was his highest ambition : and with all the means of attaining this end, which the resources of a wellinformed and liberal mind could supply, he united a zeal fjr the interests of Christianity, that terminated only with his life.
In that branch of the pastoral office which is called lecturing, his learning and ability were much admired, and never failed to«pleasc, as well as to instruct and edify, in a degree which has seldom been equalled. As a preacher, also, without pretensions to the graces of elocution, ho Lad a certain earnestness of manner, evidently proceeding from the heart, and from a sincere anxiety to be useful, which always commanded the attention, and excited the interest of the hearers. In doctrine la shoiaed uncorrupt4««, gravity, sincerity ; his sentiments were just, energetic, and impressive ; and his constant object was to press on the minds of his people the truths necessary for the correction of vice, and the advancement of piety, knowledge, and goodness. With this view he may be said to have affected a greater than usual plainness of diction.
It is true, that to be perspicuous and intelligible to the most illiterate of his audience, ought to be always the chief object of a preacher. But this may be accomplished with a strict adherence to purity of language ; and it must be confessed, that the difficulty is great of frequently employing familiar expressions, without descending from that propriety which is indispensable to the dignity of the pulpit. It may be added, that his inexhaustible variety of thought and expression in prayer, bespoke a mind richly stored with religious ideas, and at once surprised and delighted those who regularly attended hU ministry.
When engaged, either in private controversy or in the public debates of the church courts, he was always remarkable for speaking strictly to the point at issue. He was likewise distinguished by coolness, discretion, and command of temper ; he listened with patience to the arguments of his opponents, and in delivering his opinions, he showed himself uniformly open, candid, and explicit. At the same time, his talent was rather that of business than of address ; he appeared to be better fitted for deciding 0:1 the merits of a question in debate, than for soothing the passions or managing the humours of mankind—a qualification rarely possessed but by minds of а superior order. On every occasion he thought and acted with the energy of a self-deciding upright mind. And hence it is that all his writings evince the sentiments of a masculine independent spirit, uninfluenced by authority, and unfettered by prejudice.
Nor was his praise merely that of professional excellence. On various subjects his range of knowledge was ample and profound. Thus his taste for classical literature was early formed. He perused the writers of antiquity with critical skill ; and of his acquaintance with the Greek language, especially the original of the New Testament, his observations on the force of the particles, in his commentary, are a sufficient proof. In the speculations, also of metaphysical, moral, and mathematical science, he was a considerable proficient. The fact is, his powers were such as might have been turned with advantage to any department of knowledge or learning.
It may further be noticed, that in conducting the ordinary affairs of life he displayed uncommon prudence and sagacity. He was one of those who are generally attentive to small concerns, but on proper occasions show themselves liberal to a high degree. Of this different instances occurred in the course of his transactions with his friends ; and he was enabled to act on such a principle of generosity by his usual habits of economy and prudence. Dr. Macksiobt's external appearance was sufficiently expressive of his character. His countenance was manly and commanding, and his gait remarkably erect and firm.
Agrekablt to the plan of this sketch, any critical account of Dr. Macknioht's works cannot with propriety be given here. It may only be observed, in general, that his reputation for sound criticism, extensive knowledge, and clear elucidation of the sacred writings, is rapidly increasing amongst Christians of every denomination ; and he must be acknowledged to have been one of the most intelligent, judicious, and candid expositors of the Scriptures that ever appeared. Even during his own lifetime his diligence was rewarded by an ample portion of respectable fame. The "Harmony of the Gospels" hau long been esteemed a work of standard excellence for the students of evangelical knowledge. His " Truth of the Gospel History" has hitherto attracted the notice of the public less than any of his other productions : but it well deserves to be more generally read, since, of what it proposes to establish, it contains the most satisfying views that can be suggested by learning, acuteness, and good sense, and is admitted by the beet of judges to be a performance as useful and instructive as any we have on that important subject.
' The Commentary on the Apostolical Epistles' is now held in peculiar estimation ; and it may be doubted whether the scope of the sacred authors of these writings was ever, in any former age of Christianity, so fully, clearly, and happily stated, as has been done by Dr. Macknight in the general Views and Illustrations which he has prefixed to the several Chapters of the Epistles.—In this able, judicious, and learned Work, the Author's method of explaining the Scriptures is everywhere employed with the greatest success. His object was to discover the meaning of the inspired writers in difficult passages, from в comprehensive view of aU the circumstances to which they allude, without regard to interpretations of mere human authority. Hence, although on principle attached to the established standards of the Church of Scotland, he did not conceive it as any advantage to the system which he maintained, to urge in support of its peculiar doctrines every passage which zeal without knowledge may have employed for that purpose. Nothing, in fact, tends more to injure the cause of truth and religion than an injudicious appeal to Scripture ; or the attempt to establish opinions by the sanction of scriptural words or passages, quoted singly, without regard to what precedes or follows them, and thus invested with a meaning, more than probably, entirely different from what was intended hy the sacred writers. Of this mistaken application Dr. M ч к Mi.u i- has shewn various instances ; remarking, that when a doctrine is sufficiently established by any passage in which it is expressly or undoubtedly declared, we only weaken it by any appeal to other passages, of which the application to that doctrine may be dubious, or at best equivocal.—Accordingly it must be allowed, that in this method of eliciting the true meaning of Scripture, by a due respect to parallel passages, and the design of the whole context, the exposition and views which, with much sagacity of critical investigation, our Author has given of Paul's Epistles, are extremely natural, acute, and sensible.
The Life of the Apostle Paul, which concludes this Work, is an excellent compendium of the apostolical History ; and may be considered as the Author's view and illustration of the Acts of the Apostles—the only part of the New Testament writings (except the Revelation of St. John) to which the labours of Dr. Macknight, as a Commentator, were not directed.—In all his writings, his style, though unambitious of elegance or ornament, is perspicuous, and appropriate to the subject.
Dr. Macksight enjoyed the friendship and esteem of many eminent characters among his contemporaries of the same profession. In the number of these were Dr. Glair and Dr. Robertson, to whose attachment he owed much on diflercnt occasions. If the portrait which has been given in this account is a faithful resemblance, the name of him whom it represents may now be considered as not unworthy to be associated, in future times, with those of the men in whose society, during his lifetime, he had often the happiness of passing his hours, and whose works will live as the glory of Scottish literature, while civilization and refinement exist
Dr. Ehskihe and Dr. Fikdlay had been the comptions of his early youth ; and although in his opinions on some points of Church policy he differed from these venerable persons, so universally esteemed for piety and profound theological learning, their mutual regard continued unaltered through life.
From Lord II -.n.i.s he received many valuable hint» relative to the early state of Christianity, of which he availed himself in his last Work.
The proofs of respect which he experienced from many of his younger brethren in the Church, were highly gra
tifying to Dr. Mac Knight. Among his friends of thi'e description, there were two for whom he entertained • peculiar esteem ; and each of them had an opportunity of paying a public tribute of regard to his memory, in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which ought not to pass unrecorded. Principal Hii.l, with that impressive and dignified eloquence which has long been celebrated as having a powerful influence on the decisions of the Assembly, characterized him as "a venerable Father, who ranked among the most eminent Divines that the Church of Scotland has produced ; who often spoke in this House with great ability, and profound knowledge of the subject on which he delivered his opinion ; who was a master in our Israel, concerning all points of ecclesiastical law ; and by whose theological labours, conducted during a long life with unremitting assiduity, and directed to the most valuable objects, all of us now daily profit."—To Dr. Finlayson, of whose firmness, sagacity, and accurate knowledge, he early appreciated the future value to the Church, Dr. Macksight was strongly attached by a certain congenially of mind ; and he often had great pleasure in discussing various subjects of his attention, with a friend so remarkable for acutcness, judgment, and strength of intellect. It accorded with the sentiments of all his brethren, when Dr. FiNLAYSoir, officially reporting to the Assembly the death of Dr. Mackxight, as joint Collector of the Fund already mentioned, said, that " his deep learning, sound judgment, and great respectability of character, had rendered him one of the brightest ornaments of our Church."
Soon after the time of his being ordained, Dr. Macкмкзпт married Elizabeth М'Сонипгк, eldest daughter of the worthy and respectable Samcel М'Совзпск, Esq. General Examiner of the Excise in Scotland—a lady whose humane and charitable character endeared her to the people in every parish where her husband has officiated as pastor; and whose tender feelings of sympathy for distress, unwearied activity of benevolence, and constant anxiety to promote the happiness of all whom her kind offices can reach, are still known, and will long be remembered with approbation in the circle where Providence has blessed her with opportunities of doing good. By her Dr. Mackxight had four sons: The eldest, а very promising child, died at the age of seven. Another reached the age of thirty-three, after having sullerecl much from a lingering distemper, which at last proved fatal to him. The loss of this very amiable young шап was the chief distress which Dr. Macknight experienced in the course of his long and useful life.—Of his family now remaining, one is engaged in a department of the Profession of the Law, and the other is a Clergyman of the Church of Scotland.
This plain and cursory narrative, which must now be brought to a close, is another proof of what has frequently been remarked, that the history of men whose lives have been spent in the acquisitions of learning, are generally barren of those incidents which excite an interest in the details of biography.—Continually occupied with the duties of his office, with his studies, and his writings, Dr. Macknight seldom mingled in what may be culled the bustle of the world, and had no share in the political transactions of the day. For engaging in these, indeed, as already hinted, he was little qualified, cither by the natural bent of his mind, or by his usual habits of life. But he has left behind him a reputation superior to that which is conferred by the pursuits of ambition, or the lustre of events creating only a temporary interest in the passions of men ; and his name will probably be remembered with veneration, as long as the study of divine truth continues to be cultivated in the Christian world.
SEct. IV.—Different Comings of Christ are spoken of in the New Testament.
1я this Article I propose to shew, that there are other comings of Christ spoken of in scripture, besides his coming to judgment ; and that there are other things besides this mundane system, whose end is there foretold ; and that it is of these other matters the apostles speak, when they represent the day of their mailer, and the end of all things, as at hand.
1. First, then, in the prophetic writings of the Jews, (2 Sam. xxii. 10-12.; Psal. xcvii. 2-5.; Isa. xix. 1.), great exertions of the divine power, whether for the salvation or destruction of nations, are called the coming, the appearing, the pretence of God. Hence it was natural for the apostles, who were Jews, to call any signal and evident interposition of Christ, as governor of the worl3, for the accomplishment of his purposes, hit coming, and /i/a day. Accordingly, those exertions of his power and providence, whereby he destroyed Jerusalem
and the temple, abrogated the Mosaic institutions, and established the gospel, are called by the apostles his coming- and clay ; not only in allusion to the ancient prophetic language, but because Christ himself, in his prophecy concerning these events, recorded Matt, xxiv., hath termed them the coming of the Son of man, in allusion to the following prophecy of Daniel, of which his own prophecy is an explication; Dan. vii. 13. 'I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Jays. And they brought him near before him. 14., And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.' This prophecy, the Jewish doctors with one consent interpreted of their Messiah, and of that temporal kingdom which they expected was to be given him. Farther, they supposed he would erect that temporal kingdom by great and visible exertions of his power, for the destruction of his enemies. But they little suspected, that themselves were of the number of those enemies whom he was to destroy, and that his kingdom was to be established upon the ruin of their state. Yet that was the true meaning of ' the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven.' For while the Jewish nation continued in Judea, and observed the institutions of Moses, they violently opposed the preaching of the gospel, by which Messiah was to reign over all people, nations, and languages. Wherefore, that the everlasting kingdom might be effectually established, it was necessary that Jerusalem and the Jewish state should be destroyed by the Roman armies. Now, since our Lord foretold this sad catastrophe, in the words of the prophet Daniel, Matt. xxiv. 30. ' And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory ;' and, after describing every particular of it with the greatest exactness, seeing he told his disciples, ver. 34. ' This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled ;' can there be any doubt, that the apostles (who, when they wrote their epistles, certainly understood the true import of this prophecy), ' by their master's coming,' and by ' the end of all things,' which they represent as at hand, meant his coming to destroy Jerusalem, and to put an end to the institutions of Moecs 7—It is no objection to this, that when the apostles heard Christ declare, ' There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down,' they connected the end of the world, or age, with that event : Matt. xxiv. 3. ' Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming, (*j( ел/»«*«« т« аи>»ос), and of the end of the age!' For, as the Jewish doctors divided the duration of the world into three ages ; the age before the law, the age under the law, and the age of the Messiah ; the apostles knew that the age under the law was to end when the age under Messiah began. And therefore, by the end of the age, they meant, even at that time, not the end of the world, but the end of the age under the law, in which the Jews had been greatly oppressed by the heathens. And although they did not then understand the purpose for which their master was to come, nor the true nature of his kingdom, nor suspect that he was to make any change in the institutions of Moses ; yet when they wrote their epistles, being illuminated by the Holy Ghost, they certainly knew that the institutions of Moses were to be abolished, and that their master's kingdom was not a temporal, but a spiritual do- ' minion, in which all people, nations and languages, were to be governed, not by external force, but by the operation of truth upon their minds, through the preaching of the gospel.
Farther, that the apostles, by the coming of Christ, which they represented as at hand when they wrote their epistles, meant his coming to establish his spiritual kingdom over all people, nations, and languages, and nut his coming to put an end !» this mundane system, is evident from what Christ himself told them, Matt. xvi. 28. ' There be some standing here, who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.' And, agreeably to this account of the coming of Christ, and of the end of all things, I observe, that every passage of their epistles, in which the apostles have spoken of these things as at hand, may, with the greatest propriety, be interpreted of Christ's coming to establish his everlasting kingdom over all people, nations, and languages, by destroying Jerusalem, putting an end to the law of Moses, and spreading the gospel through the world. Thus, 1 Cor. x. 11. 'These things—are written for our admonition, upon whom (тиля таг aimtfi) the ends of the ages are come,' means, the end of the age under the law, and the beginning of the age under the Messiah.—Philip, iv. 5. ' Let your moderation be known to all men ; the Lord is nigh ;' namely, to destroy the Jews, your greatest adversaries.—Heb. ix. 26. 'But now once, (it/ з-urmtía т« люто»), at the conclusion of the ages,' the Jewish jubilees, ' he hath been manifested to abolish sin-offering by the sacrifice of himself.'—Heb. x. 25. ' Exhorting one another daily, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching ;' the day of Christ's coming to destroy Jerusalem and the Jewish state.—Ver. 37. ' For yet a very little while, and he who is coming will come and will not tarry.'—James v. 7. ' Wherefore, be patient, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.'—Ver. 8. ' Be yc also patient ; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord,' to destroy the Jews your persecutors, ' draweth nigh.'—Ver. 9. ' Behold, the Judge standeth before the door.'—1 Pet. iv. 7. ' The end of all things,' the end of Jerusalem and of the temple, and of all the Mosaic inetitutions, ' hath approached. Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.'—1 John ii. 18. Young 'children, it is the last hour* of the Jewish state ; ' and, as ye have heard (from Christ, in his prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem) that the antichrist comcth, so now there are many antichrists ; whence we know that it is the last hour of the Jewish state.
2. There is another coming of Christ spoken of by the apostles, different likewise from his coming to judge the world, and to put an end to the present state of things ; namely, his coming to destroy ' the man of sin,' 2 These, ii. 8. ' Him the Lord will consume by the breath of his mouth, and will render ineffectual by the bright shining of his coming.' This singular event, which will contribute greatly to the honour of God, and to the good of his church, being to be accomplished by a visible and extraordinary interposition of the power of Christ in the government of the world, is, agreeably to the Scripture style, fitly called ' the coming of the Lord ;' and ' the bright shining of his coming.' But this coming is nowhere in Scripture said to be at hand.
3. There is likewise a day,or coming ofChriit,epoken of by Paul, different from his coming to judgment, and from
both the former comings—I mean, his releasing his people from their present trial, by death. 1 Cor. i. 8. ' He also will confirm you until the end without accusation, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.'—Philip, i. 6. ' He who hath begun in you a good work, will be completing it until the day of Jesus Christ.'—1 These, v. 23, ' May your whole person, the spirit, and the soul, and the body, be preserved unblamable, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' It is true, the release of Christ's servants from their present trial by death is accomplished, for the most part, by no extraordinary display of his power ; yet it is fitly enough called his day and coming-, because by his appointment all men die, and by his power each is carried to his own place after death. Besides, his servante in particular, being put on their duty like soldiers, must remain at their several posts till released by their commander ; and when he releases them, he is fitly said to come for that purpose.
4. Besides all these, there is a day, or coming- of the ion! to judge the world, and to put an end to the present state of things. This coming, Christ himself hath promised. Matt. xvi. 27. ' The Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels ; and then shall he reward every man according to his work.' Now, this berng a real personal appearing of Christin the body, it is, more properly than any other of his comings, called the day and coming of Christ. And the purposes of it being more important than those of his other comings, the exertions of his power for accomplishing them will be most signal and glorious. On that occasion, likewise-, he will appear in far greater majesty than formerly. For whereas, during his first abode on earth, bis dignity and perfections were in a great measure concealed under the veil of his human nature, at his second coming, his glory as the image of the invisible God, and as having all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily, will be most illustriously displayed, by his raising the dead, judging the world, destroying the earth, punishing his enemies, and rewarding his servants.—Hence this coming is, with great propriety, termed ' the revelation of Jesus Christ,' and ' the day' of his revelation, when he shall be ' glorified in his saints, and admired of all them who believe.'
Thus it appears, that when the apostles wrote, there were four comings of Christ to happen—three of them figurative, but the fourth a real personal appearance ; that these different comings are frequently spoken of in Scripture ; and that, although the coming of Christ to destroy Jerusalem, and to establish his everlasting kingdom, so represented by the apostles as then at hand, no passage from their writings can be produced, in which his personal appearance to judge the world is said, or even insinuated, to be at hand. The truth is, if the different comings of Christ are distinguished, as they ought to be, we shall find, that the apostles have spoken of each of them according to truth ; and that the opinion which infidels are so eager in maintaining, and which some Christians have unadvisedly espoused, to the great discredit of the inspiration of the apostles, as if they believed the day of judgment was to happen in their lifetime, hath not the least foundation in Scripture.
What do YOU think ?
Email PreteristArchive.com's Sole Developer and Curator, Todd Dennis
(todd @ preteristarchive.com)
Opened in 1996