THE CASE AGAINST THE
strongly Second Advent truth is telling is proved by the elaborate attempts now
being made to refute it, the latest being advanced (Christian World, Feb.
10th and 17th, 1927) by Dr. Charles E. Jefferson, of
We do not say to one another "Maranatha."
We seldom think of His coming. That will account in large measure for the
difference in spirit between the first century, Church
and our own. Their belief in the early coming of Christ gave an intensity to their
ours does not possess. We are intense
about certain things but not about our religion. There
was an other-worldliness in the Church of the Apostles
which has vanished. The early Christians
kept their thoughts upon the other world, the world into which Christ had
vanished and from which He was soon to emerge again. We do not think much about the other world. The present world is amazingly attractive and
it absorbs all our strength and time. It
is a difficult world to manage and we have no time for any other. The
[* Why do so many Christians not have this ‘intensity to their life’? Simply because they are ‘dull of hearing’, unbelieving, and neglectful of the warnings that threaten their exclusion from the ‘Age’ to come. Bunyan said: "They that will have it must run for it; and this calls aloud to those who began but awhile since to run, I say, for them to mend their pace if they wish to win. Look to it, therefore, that thou delay no time, not an hour’s time, but part speedily with all, with everything that is an hindrance to thee in thy journey, and run ; yea, and so run that thou mayest obtain."]
Now this encomium - [high commendation, a speaking well of the ‘first century church’ is] - - a perfectly true one - is exceedingly dangerous to Dr. Jefferson’s case. "Do men gather grapes of thorns?" Does it not go far towards overthrowing the very foundations of morality to paint in glowing colours the heavenly mind and unearthly conduct which sprang, and spring, out of what is later described as ‘a deadly superstition’? It is a fundamental law of the universe that like alone produces like. If the life radiant to which (as Dr. Jefferson says) the modern Church without the Advent is a stranger, is the fruit of a ‘travesty’ and a ‘caricature’ of the Gospel (again the Doctor’s words), morality is at an end, and truth has committed suicide.
But why does the Doctor admit so much? For one very simple reason. He thinks he has a deadly torpedo which he can launch at any moment into the flank of the Advent, sinking it hopelessly. Here it is:-
Let us see what Paul believed. We have his belief recorded in 1 Thess. 4: 16-18: "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord." That is very clear and very positive. The Lord is coming out of the sky with a shout. An archangel is going to speak. The trumpet of God is going to blow. All the Christians then alive, and Paul will be among the number, will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. That was Paul’s joyful belief. Of that he had no doubt. That is the doctrine which he taught his converts. But Paul was mistaken, so were all the Apostles. Every one of them was mistaken. Their mistake is recorded in our New Testament. That mistake cannot be got rid of. It was a huge mistake, and it forms a part of the New Testament for ever.
Alas, the ‘huge mistake’ is Dr. Jefferson’s! It is always an error to attack a citadel with such contempt as not first to have mastered its ground plan. Cannon emptied at out-works which do not exist waste their shot. A not very recondite study of the Scripture documents reveals that the attitude and not the date was the one constant factor inculcated, combining unwavering readiness with the possibility of indefinite postponement. We to-day use exactly the language of the Apostle, with an identical meaning:- "we that are alive, that remain, shall be caught up": whether we shall be alive, and remain, is one of the secrets of God. Dr. Jefferson confounds expectation with prediction. The Apostle John carefully guards (John 21: 23) against any dating of the Advent, even within the last Apostle’s lifetime, while equally carefully leaving open its possibility, hope, or even expectation. An identical attitude runs through the entire substructure of all Advent prophecies. Paul’s ‘huge mistake’ simply does not exist; and with it collapses the solitary argument, the lonely foundation, from which Dr. Jefferson, with a curiously uniformed assurance, jettisons the Second Coming as ‘a deadly superstition.’ Nor is the Doctor’s knowledge of Advent literature any more accurate than his knowledge of Advent prophecies.
They say He is coming soon. They used to name the date. They missed it so many times they dare not do it any more. Only a fanatic of unusual stature ventures, any longer, to specify the day on which the Lord will bring the world to an end. They now use ambiguous adverbs. They declare He is coming "soon."
Had Dr. Jefferson any knowledge at all of Advent literature - he seems acquainted only with the date-fixing vaticinations [false prophecies] of non-Christian sects such as Russellism, or Mormonism or the Order of the Star in the East - he would know that we could range through the thirty volumes of the Quarterly Journal of Prophecy, or the entire output of the Rainbow - probably the most remarkable periodical on prophecy ever issued - or the pages of any foremost exponent of the Coming, and cross-examine hundreds of thousands of prophetic students of every grade of gift and grace, and not only find no date, but the strongest possible enforcements of our Lord’s prohibition of all date-fixing to an event the very soul of which is its inviolable secrecy.
Nor is Dr. Jefferson’s one practical criticism a ‘mistake’ less ‘huge.’ He imagines because Christ’s Gospel finds so obstinate a refusal as to shift the centre of gravity for world-reform across the grave, rendering all present political and social effort a constant Sisyphus [incessantly recurring] miscarriage, that the Advent attitude is, therefore, folded hands and a slumbering heart.
A reading of the Bible which cuts the nerve of action is certainly a deadly superstition which all open-eyed lovers of the truth must resist and overcome.
As a matter of fact, the mass of work accomplished in the world, and for the world, by watchers for the Lord during the world’s latest century is out of all proportion to their rank or number. Missionaries like Hudson Taylor, philanthropists like Lord Shaftsbury, evangelists like Moody, preachers like Spurgeon, expositors like Govett, authors like Pember, scholars like Tregelles, founders of institutions for Christian rescue like George Muller; - all these giants in their several spheres, whose labours were colossal, not only could say, but most have said, that so far from ‘cutting the nerve of action,’ it was the nerve. We have space for but a single witness. Mr. Moody, beyond challenge the greatest evangelist of the modern age, and from his earliest years an exhaustive worker, says: "I have felt like working three times as hard since I came to understand that my Lord is coming again."
Dr. Jefferson’s own view of the Coming is a coming so ineffectual that it never ceases, and never arrives.
The proper expression is the "continuous" coming of Christ. He has already come many times. He is coming many times. In the present hour He will come and keep on coming.
It seems a light matter to critics of this kind that such a view contradicts point-blank the Son of God, who says: "they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. 24: 30). If the Apostles erred, the Lord erred much more deeply, for His assertions of His bodily return are the most drastic and constant in the whole range of Scripture.
It is deeply pathetic that the very ‘faith’ in the future which the Church often so loyally, so bravely, exercises is itself a tragic ‘unbelief’ - in the Scriptures - doomed to bitter disenchantment. Israel stressed the crown and forgot the cross - the Church stresses the cross and forgets the crown; and critics of the Advent, coming perilously near to filling the role of the mockers foretold (2 Pet. 3: 3), may well be cautious lest they duplicate Israel’s blunder, who, "because they knew not the voice of the prophets, fulfilled them by condemning Him" (Acts. 13: 27).*
[* The only Christian date-affixers (so far as we know) are found among advocates of the ‘year-day’ theory, nor would even they (we imagine) attempt to forecast the exact day of rapture, or the hour of our Lord's arrival on earth.]
THE BACKSLIDER’S CRY
Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears --
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain --
Take them and give me salvation again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay-
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing this hard world to reap:
Shepherd, enfold me again with Thy sheep
Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,
Saviour, O Saviour, my heart calls for You!
Many the years in sin I have squander’d,
While from Thee, Jesus, my steps have long wander’d
Yet with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I to-night for Thy presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep:
Shepherd, enfold me again with Thy sheep!
Saviour, dear Saviour, the years have been long
Since I last join’d in Thy saint’s holy song;
Let them sing - then to my soul it shall seem
That my backslidd’n years have been but a dream.
Clasp’d to Thy heart in a loving embrace
With joy unexhausted and infinite grace,
Never hereafter to mourn or to weep,
Shepherd, enfold me again with Thy sheep!
- H. LOUISE DAVIS