CONTROVERSY ON THE SECOND ADVENT
BY HORATIUS BONAR, D.D.
I shall endeavour to abstain from insinuating that no one would ever take such a view of the passage but for certain inconveniences attending it. I may at times think certain theories untenable and unscriptural; but I shall try to avoid hard names, which may after all betoken only an undue self-confidence on my part, or an unconscious bias which unfits one for appreciating or even understanding any theory save our own. I may perhaps discern very clearly a long train of inferences from the doctrine of our opponents - inferenas which appear to me logically irresistible and doctrinally most preposterous; but I shall try to keep myself from supposing that all those inferences of mine must form the creed of my opponents, and that because certain things appear to me incompatible with certain others, they must be so in reality. I may think some reasonings inconclusive enough; but I shall not irritate a brother by telling him that they are not worth the name of arguments, or fitted only to provoke a smile. My thinking that the opinions of certain brethren in Christ are erroneous, is no reason why I should call them hallucinations, or wild speculations and reveries. An opponent speaks truly of the sweet spirit of one writer, and the gentle pen of another. My prayer is, that that spirit and that pen may be mine. They are much needed in this day of warfare and excitement and hasty speech. Our weapons are not carnal; nor ought our speech to be. If it be, we are but borrowing the worlds rude weapons, and are more concerned to overthrow an adversary than to win a brother. Men in earnest we ought in good truth to be. Our business, however, is not to wrangle about our Lords appearing, but to try who shall find out most truth respecting it, who shall most fully understand our Lords meaning, and who shall best instruct his brethren therein, winning them by his meekness, not repelling them by his sharpness or unpliable tenacity.
In dealing with an opponent it is well sometimes to consider the possibility of our being, perchance, in error. This does not make us less decided; but it tends to abate self-confidence and dogmatism, as well as to make us more respectful towards his opinions, no less than towards himself. It may be well enough for me to slight or smile at his views, if it is utterly impossible for him to be right, or me to be wrong; but WHAT, AFTER ALL, IF THE SLIGHTED TENETS SHOULD BE TRUE?
I strive to write for truth, not for triumph. The times call for something else than mans conflict with, or victory over, his fellow-man. The issue of the contest, and the prize that is to be won, is divine truth. I am far from thinking that there is not error cleaving to our Second Advent system, or that there is not much sin mingling with our defence of it; and I shall be always glad to reconsider its various parts, and thankful for correction or further light. For the remark of the German philosopher I feel to be a true one, that the worst insult that could be offered, even to a half-educated man, would be to suppose that he could be offended by the exposure of an error which he entertained, or the proclamation of a truth which had escaped his notice. If in aught I have written unadvised words, or breathed a spirit at variance with the mind of Christ, I shall feel much sorrow.
The present controversy is one which is not likely soon to subside. For it is not a controversy called up by human disputants; it is one forced upon our notice by the ominous events of the day we live in. It is the signs of the times that are compelling men to look it in the face. These signs mean something; and something too in which we have the profoundest interest. They are either the forerunners of a millennium not materially differing from the present state of things - a millennium in which the earth is not renewed, but remains barren and accursed - a millennium in which creation still groans - a millennium in which Satan is not bound, but still roams the earth - a millennium, of which the utmost that can be said is, that there will be far less mixture than now, but tares still growing plentifully in it, and the enemy still busy in sowing them - a millennium from which Christ being absent in person, the church as an opponent admits, will be miserable without Him: or they are signs of the glad advent - the forerunners of the King himself, for whom the church, in loneliness and widowhood, has been waiting so long, and under whose righteous sway she hopes to see all things made new.