ALL THE MEANS OF GRACE, AND AGENCIES OF SALVATION, TERMINATE AT THE SECOND ADVENT.
We have seen that the whole elect and ransomed Church is complete when Christ comes. If this be correct, we may expect to find the ordained means for the gathering and perfecting of the Church disappearing from the stage,—the standing agencies and instrumentalities, the whole economy and machinery of a visible Church-state, taken out of the way. Here then is a test, the fairest and most satisfactory that can be imagined, by which to try the truth of our doctrine. Premillennialists maintain that the saving of souls is to go on upon earth after the Redeemer’s second appearing. If this be true, we shall find the means of grace surviving the advent. Whereas, if grace has ceased at Christ’s coming to flow from the fountain, we shall find that the channels for its conveyance have disappeared too—if the building of mercy has been completed, we may expect to find the scaffolding cleared away.
Beginning then with the Means—If it can be shown that both the written Word and the sealing ordinances, by which God ordinarily gathers and perfects the Church—having their whole ends and objects exhausted at Christ’s coming—shall then absolutely cease as means of grace and salvation to mankind, I think it will be clear that all saving of souls is then at an end.
What, then, is the testimony of Scripture on this subject? The answer to this question forms
CHRIST’S SECOND COMING WILL EXHAUST THE OBJECT OF THE SCRIPTURES
His Coming is the goal of all revelation, its farthest horizon, its last terminus, its sabbath and haven. Thither are directed all the anxieties which divine truth awakens. Every hope which it kindles and every fear which it excites instinctively points to that awful event, its concomitants, and its issues, as the needle to the pole. To prepare men for it, as an event future to all whom it addresses, is what the Bible proposes, and positively all that it undertakes and is fitted to do. The whole force of every reference to Christ’s coming in Scripture, as a motive to action, absolutely depends on its being a future event.
1. Look—in the case of saints—at all the incentives to patience and hope, to watchfulness and fidelity, to promptitude and cheerfulness in the discharge of duty, drawn from the prospect of Christ’s coming, and see if they would not be stript of all their power and all their point, on the supposition of its being a past event, and as addressed to saints living after it. Take an example or two almost at random:—
“Occupy till I come.”—(Luke 19:13.)
“Ye do well to take heed to the sure word of prophecy, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts.”—(2 Pet. 1:19.)
“Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.”—(James 5:7.)
“Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—(1 Pet. 1:13.)
“The Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give the crown of righteousness at that day to all them that love his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8.)
“Our conversation is in heaven, from whence we look for the Saviour.” (Phil. 3:20.)
It is impossible to deny that the attitude of expectancy and preparedness for a future appearing of Christ, is the whole burden of one and all of these passages. Just think how they would sound in the ears of saints living after the advent. “Behold I come quickly”—is the exhilarating announcement of Jesus to those whose eyes long to behold him—“and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” But from what lips shall that delightful response go forth after his coming, “Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus?” The Church’s hopes, and fears, and struggles, have found their object and end. Beyond that end we never get in God’s Word. It is the goal of all souls travelling from nature to grace, from a lost to a saved state. It is the crisis and consummation of the state of grace, and the whole Bible is constructed upon the principle of its being so.
And here, let me recall the scriptural connection which we found to subsist between the two comings of Christ; how to the grace brought by the one we look backward by faith, and forward by hope to the glory which is to be brought by the other; how, between these two events, of unutterable importance to the formation and growth of the Christian character, the believer is thus poised: let this intrinsic connection and studied juxtaposition of these two doctrines in the Christian system—these commanding events in the work of redemption—be duly weighed, and then let the reader say, whether the theory of a race of outstanding saints, living on earth after the second advent, does not dislocate this connection, eviscerate every text which expresses it, derange the whole economy of evangelical motives, subvert the only recognised basis of a Christian character, and introduce a principle of inextricable confusion, where order and beauty, symmetry and strength, are seen otherwise to reign. This is strong language. Whether it be too strong, let those who dispassionately weigh the grounds of it determine.
2. Similar remarks may be made upon all those passages in which the second advent is brought to bear upon “the sinners in Zion,” despisers of gospel grace, such as the following:—
“The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power, in that day.” (2 Thess. 1:7–10.)
“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night,” &c. (2 Pet. 3:10.)
“And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” (Luke 12:39, 40.)
“As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man. They did eat, they drank, … until the day that Noe entered into the ark; and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:26, 27, 30.)
Is it necessary to ask whether such warnings would be at all applicable to sinners living after that event, so full of terror to the wicked now, shall have been numbered amongst the things of the past?
Thus, one half of the Scripture would be inapplicable to saints, and the other half to sinners, living after Christ’s coming: In other words, the Scriptures, as a means of grace, will be PUT OUT OF DATE by the second advent. It is “a light shining in a dark place UNTIL the day dawn,” and nothing more.
In reply to this it is urged, that though “the Old Testament was a book written for men before the first advent, and applicable universally to such alone, this does not hinder us from profiting by the Old Testament after his coming.” But this is to mistake, and not at all to meet, my argument. It is not the mere fact that an event is past, that makes the recorded predictions of it and preparations for it useless ever after. It were absurd to maintain this. But it is the nature of the event, which I say would render the Scriptures inapplicable and useless to any living after it. What is that event? It is “the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ”—“the day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he hath ordained”—“the day of judgment and of the perdition of ungodly men, against which day (alone) the heavens and the earth that are now are kept in store”—the day, in fine, of which Himself says: “Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me (μετʼ ἐμοῦ), to give every man according as his work shall be.” How different the bearings of this coming upon men’s eternal destinies, from that of his first coming! Why, in this respect, it is just the reverse of it. The first coming opened “the door” of grace, which the second coming will “shut.” (Matt. 25:10; Luke 17:26–30.) The first coming—far from rendering the Old Testament inapplicable, or putting it out of date, for believers under the gospel—only opened out its riches, making it, in some respects, more valuable to us than even to those under whose economy it was written. The old and the new dispensations are, in fact, but one dispensation of grace—the former being preparatory to the latter—the latter perfective of the former—both together embracing the infancy and maturity of the same economy of grace. In short, of his first advent the Redeemer expressly says, “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” Can such a saying be found respecting his second advent? No, but the reverse of it continually. Ever is it said that he comes to “judge”—never once that he will come to “save the world.” It does not follow, then, that because Christ’s first coming—to save—did not supersede the Old Testament, his second coming—to judge—will not supersede both Testaments as means of grace; but the opposite clearly follows. If the object of the Scriptures be to prepare men for “THAT DAY” which will be the crisis and consummation of the state of grace, surely the arrival of that day must supersede their use.
THE SEALING ORDINANCES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT WILL DISAPPEAR AT CHRIST’S SECOND COMING
The very terms of their institution are singularly decisive on this point.
I. With respect to BAPTISM, how conclusive are the glorious words of its institution:
Matt. 28:18–20: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach,” or make disciples of “all nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
Here we have Christ’s commission to establish his kingdom upon earth, the authority on which that commission is based and a gracious encouragement to undertake and go through with it. The commission is, properly speaking, twofold—missionary and pastoral; but there is a sort of third intermediate department, holding of both, linking the two together, and forming, if I may so speak, the point of transition between the missionary and the pastoral departments of the work prescribed—I mean that of baptizing. “Go, make disciples of all nations”—“Subjugate the world to me; bring all nations to the obedience of faith.” This is the missionary work. This done, “Baptize the converts in (or into) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Generally speaking, this was to afford the converts an opportunity of making public profession of the faith they had embraced—to be a solemn declaration of their principles and purposes, and their formal separation from a world lying in wickedness. But, more particularly, it was to be God’s solemn investiture and public infeftment [i.e., to invest with legal possession] of believers in all the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the communion of the Holy Ghost; and to be their solemn pledge that they yielded themselves to this triune Jehovah as their God and portion, and would cleave to him in love and obedience as his redeemed people. Thus were they and their seed to be visibly declared the Lord’s, and enrolled the disciples of Christ; and being thus formed and organized into churches, the Christian ministry immediately assumed a new character. The missionary aggressor of those that were without now merges into the pastoral overseer of them that are within—whose work is to train and mature those organized clustres of disciples for glory, or, as here expressed, to “teach them to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded us.” Such, then, is the Commission. The Authority is that of Him “to whom all power is given in heaven and in earth” for this very end. And the Encouragement is, “Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (συντελεία τοῦ αἰῶιος). At this “end of the world,” then, whatever be meant by it, the whole work here described is to cease. Fortunately, we have no need to spend a moment in fixing the sense of this phrase; for it is agreed on all hands that it denotes the time of Christ’s personal coming. This being the case, what do we learn from this passage? Why, clearly,
That THE WHOLE WORK OF THE MINISTRY, both in its missionary and pastoral departments—embracing the making, baptizing, and training of disciples—together with Christ’s mediatorial POWER and PRESENCE for the discharge of it, are to terminate at his second coming. The bare reading of the words makes this as clear as any comment on them could possibly do. Nor let any say, that though the external machinery of the church may be changed, the work of saving souls may still go on. For in this passage, the means and the end, the grace and the channels for conveying it, the form and the substance, are plainly bound up with each other.
II. As to the LORD’S SUPPER, what can be more conclusive than
1 Cor. 11:26: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come”?
That the cessation of this precious and characteristic ordinance of the Christian Church is here intimated, I argue, not so much from the word “till,” as from the manifest design of the statement itself, which was to teach the perpetuity of this ordinance in the visible Church—its continuance as long as there should be a Church upon earth in which to show it forth. According, then, to the apostle’s teaching, the visible Church-state and this ordinance are to terminate together, and both at Christ’s coming. And is not this what any one would take for granted, from the nature and intent of the ordinance itself? The Lord’s Supper is the symbol of that double attitude of the believer—to which we find ourselves ever recurring—the backward look of his faith and the forward look of his hope—its present crucifixion and anticipated glorification with his Lord. Now, this is precisely the note which the apostle strikes. He seems almost to go out of his way to get at this, his favourite collocation. He does not bid them show the Lord’s death in the Church “always, even to the end of the world”—though that had come to the same thing—but he bids them celebrate his death for them, till, as their Life, they find themselves appearing with him in glory. “Show the Lord’s death till he come”—till the affecting be turned into a joyous scene—till the grace ye draw from his first, shall merge into the glory ye receive at his second coming—till He whose table ye bedew with your tears, in “fellowship with his sufferings and conformity to his death,” shall interrupt your communion and break in upon you with his glory, and swallow up faith in sight; giving you, in place of the symbols, the immediate and eternal fruition of himself. Thus, the Lord’s Supper will cease to be celebrated after Christ’s coming, not because the Lord of the Church has so willed it, but because after that it would be meaningless—because the state of things and the attitude of the believing soul, with reference to the two comings of Christ, of which the Lord’s Supper is the ordained and beautiful symbol, shall then have no place.
What, then, have we found with respect to these ordained means of grace? Why, that the second advent, come when it may, will put them all out of date. The passages which teach this, make no distinction between the means and the end; they so implicate the grace conveyed with the means of conveying it, that both are seen disappearing together at Christ’s coming. If, then, there is to be a millennium after that, it cannot be an era of Christianity; for the whole Christian furniture, and with it all the Christianity that has hitherto obtained, has been withdrawn from the earth. The word is inapplicable—it was for a totally different state of things: the ordinances are gone: and the “grace which hath appeared unto all men, bringing salvation”—having no more salvation to bring, because “the blessed hope and glorious appearing” to which it points all its possessors as a future event, has become a present and glorious reality—this grace, of which the sacraments are but the symbols and exponents, has retired from the field, having accomplished all its objects.
These conclusions are sufficiently startling, one should think. But it is not every thing that startles the advocates of this commanding theory. Mr. Brooks, for example, not only admits all that we have said about its putting the Scriptures out of date, but conceives that this very circumstance furnishes valuable confirmation of his view of the advent. One whole essay, entitled “The approaching New Dispensation,” is devoted to this point; and I have to entreat those who are not hopelessly committed to the doctrine of the premillennial advent, to look well, in the light of the following extract, whither it is likely to lead them:—
“Startling, then,” says Mr. Brooks, “as it may appear to some, yet I apprehend it will be found that the Holy Scriptures would, for the most part, be rendered inapplicable to the then existing circumstances of men in the flesh, and that there would need some further revelation from God. Now, I think it must be allowed, that a state of things which supersedes a portion of divine revelation hitherto enjoyed, and introduces men into a state of things which is the consummation of that revealed, has one grand characteristic of a new dispensation.”
The first of the things which are to “render the Scriptures for the most part inapplicable,” Mr. Brooks says, is the binding of Satan, and its consequences; regarding which he tells us, that
“All that is written for the comfort of the believer under such circumstances—the promises set before him, to sustain him during the conflict, and the experience of the cloud of witnesses, recorded for his encouragement, will become comparatively a dead letter—a matter inapplicable to the circumstances in which the Church can, for a thousand years, by any probability be placed. I forbear,” he adds, after one or two other examples of this kind, “to bring forward many other particulars, which would obviously be rendered nugatory by our Lord’s personal advent. What I have advanced is sufficient to evince, that the whole character of the Church and of the state of mankind would be so altered, together with their spiritual and religious circumstances, that we should no longer find them portrayed generally in the length and breadth of Scripture; and it would not, perhaps, be too much to say, that the great bulk of what are called practical discourses, at present delivered or published, would be as much unsuited to the condition of mankind, as they would were they addressed to the angels of God! This view of the subject,” he continues, “is strikingly confirmed by referring to the past history of the Church, and reasoning from the analogy of the case. Whensoever any great change has been made in its circumstances and condition, it has always been accompanied by a further revelation from God, concerning the dispensation about to be introduced, and containing also some intimations of the dispensation to succeed.… Again, each decidedly marked era in the history of the Church, has not only been accompanied by an increase of revelation, but by a disannulling or superseding of something going before.… When, therefore, a similar difference shall exist in the use of the New Testament revelation, it will be equally manifest that a new dispensation has arrived. Nor will the Scriptures, SUPERSEDED IN THE MILLENNIUM, be devoid of interest or use; but they will serve in the way of retrospection and memorial; excepting some very few passages, respecting ‘the little season,’ when Satan shall be loosed—and the events which are to follow.”
On this memorial use of the Scriptures during the millennium, there is the following singular note, which I take the liberty of introducing into the text:—“Thus the manna, given in the wilderness, ceased on the entering of the Church into the promised land; but a pot of it was laid up in the ark as a memorial!”
Thus, then, the Scriptures will be “superseded,” as being “inapplicable” during the millennium; and all “practical discourses,” founded upon Scripture, will be as “unsuitable as to the angels of God.” These Scriptures, however, will not be altogether “devoid of interest or use.” They will “serve in the way of retrospection and memorial,” like the pot of manna, when the earth shall be flowing with the milk and the honey of a new and more “applicable” revelation!
But possibly these are extravagancies of Mr. Brooks alone, unsanctioned by his brethren. If it were so, the inconsistency would be theirs, not his. Certainly, a NEW DISPENSATION is what they are all looking for, and perpetually dwelling on; and it is a necessary part of their scheme, since the millennium they are expecting will be so organically different from any thing now existing, that it would be ridiculous to imagine it realized, save under a new and perfectly unique dispensation. And who can fail to see that a new dispensation necessarily implies a NEW REVELATION to usher it in; in other words, to authorize and organize it? I am quite aware of the harshness of this sound in the ears of many excellent premillennialists, who flatter themselves that their doctrine may be held without tacking to it the repulsive expectation of a new revelation; and who, amidst the cloud of difficulties in which their scheme is enveloped, in this view of it, are fain to betake themselves to their favourite refuge—that “we have nothing to do with difficulties.” But the following extracts will show that Mr. Brooks is far from being alone on the subject of a new revelation.
“There are,” says Mr. Bickersteth, “some original and valuable remarks on the millennium in the essays of the Rev. H. Woodward. He shows HOW IN APPLICATION THE SCRIPTURES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, written for a tempted and suffering Church, ARE TO THIS STATE OF THINGS, and thence draws an argument for the personal advent of our Lord on earth, TO OPEN THE VERY FOUNTAIN FROM WHICH THE SCRIPTURES THEMSELVES HAVE FLOWED, FROM WHICH NEW STREAMS MAY ISSUE FORTH TO WATER A RENOVATED WORLD, AND MAKE GLAD THE CITY OF GOD.”
“We may expect [during the millennium] further means of grace”—says the same author, in commenting on my quotation from him in the foregoing paragraph—“and A VISIBLE ECONOMY POSSIBLY OF ORAL REVELATION FROM THOSE WHO REIGN UPON THE EARTH, as we see in the Jewish economy.”
In other words, the glorified saints who are to reign on the earth, may “orally” communicate the mind of God to those then living in the flesh, as the prophets did of old to the Jewish people, and a visible economy of such oral revelation may characterise the millennium!
“These passages of Scripture,” says Dr. M‘Neile, “avowedly belong to this dispensation.… But, on the supposition that the dispensation is to enlarge itself by degrees into the universal blessedness predicted by the prophets, then these Scriptures will not continue to apply; and who is to determine”—he means, without a new revelation—“at what point of the progress they cease to be applicable? It is obvious, that in the passage from our present state to a state of universal holiness, THESE CHARACTERISTIC SAYINGS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT MUST CEASE TO HAVE ANY APPLICATION, AND BECOME OBSOLETE, NOT TO SAY FALSE: and again I ask, who is to determine at what point of the progress they cease to apply? We maintain, therefore, that as the statutes of the book of Leviticus continued binding, until another plain and direct communication from the God who gave them showed that they were superseded, and a better order of things introduced; so these Scriptures, describing the experience, the number, and the character of the Lord’s people, under this dispensation, must continue applicable, TILL ANOTHER PLAIN AND DIRECT COMMUNICATION, FROM HIM WHO GAVE THEM, SHALL SHOW THAT THEY ARE SUPERSEDED, and a still better order of things introduced. THIS COMMUNICATION WE EXPECT AT THIS SECOND COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.”
We have thus the testimony of our friends themselves—and these not certainly the extremest section of them—in favour of the main position of this chapter, namely, that the second advent will put all that we now have, in the way of means, out of date. We, indeed, carry the matter a very little farther than they do. They talk of a new order of things, and, in connection with this, they look with perfect consistency for a new revelation authoritatively to launch it: I have endeavoured to show that the old order of things, which Christ’s coming is to supersede, includes not only the present means of grace, but the grace itself conveyed by them. They will not go this length; but whether they are far short of it, let the reader judge. When they have found that millennial Christianity will be so different a thing from the Christianity of the New Testament that it will need a revelation for itself—when they have found (though some of them demur to this) that “the gate” into it will no longer be “strait,” nor the way of it any longer “narrow;” that there will be nothing to “come out and be separated from”—no “world,” the “love” of which is incompatible with the “love of the Father”—and no devil,—most people will imagine that they have got rid of some rather important features of Christianity itself. Satan is gone; the world is gone—that is to say, as in any respect inimical to salvation; and if the gate into spiritual safety be not strait, nor the way of it narrow, the flesh must be gone also. Whether, after this, “the grace which bringeth salvation” will have any thing to do—whether it would not be rather in the way—whether, in short, such a view of millennial Christianity be any thing more savoury, or more intelligible, than the Adamism, from which they profess to stand aloof; or rather, whether it be not this same Adamism, if it be any thing more than an inexpressible abstraction—we may leave unsettled just now, as we shall have occasion to dissect it when we come to investigate the character of the millennial era. Meantime I cannot but hope, that, prepared as are some of the advocates of the premillennial scheme for all this, and more too, rather than abandon their beloved theory—there are others, and not a few, who will think its advantages rather dearly purchased at this expense, and will suspect that a scheme involving an obligation to look for such things, does not look like a scriptural one.
 The Duke of Manchester asks if I include the preached with the written word here; because if so, he “denies that that will cease at Christ’s advent, believing from the prophets, that after the Lord comes with fire (Isa. 66:15), his glory will be declared among the Gentiles (verse 19).”—P. 290. Undoubtedly, I say the same of the preached as of the written word. As to the passage which his Grace adduces from Isaiah, I can hardly conceive it possible that any one should apply the details of that prediction to the second advent.
 Mr. Bickersteth (Divine Warning, p. 316). To the same effect, Mr. A. Bonar (p. 127), the Duke of Manchester (p. 291), Mr. Wood (p. 76, &c.), Mr. Birks (pp. 158, 189), &c.
 See pp. 34, 35, where we found that same expression, “the end of the world,” occurring thrice in one chapter in this same sense.
 “Now with regard to the Christian sacraments, there can be no doubt that these ordinances of grace will cease and determine at the Second Coming of the Lord.”—(Birks, p. 157.)
 “To avoid being misunderstood, I would observe, that when I say the Scriptures would be for the most part inapplicable, I am aware that there are many glorious declarations concerning the divine attributes and conduct (!), which could never lose their power and influence on a regenerate soul.”
 Abdiel’s Essays; Investigator, vol. ii. pp. 267–270.
 Guide, pp. 295, 296. Fifth Edition.
 Divine Warning, p. 316.
 The passages selected, as then inapplicable, are such as the following: “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way of life;” “Be not conformed to this world;” “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” On these passages I shall have occasion to touch at a subsequent stage of the argument.
 Lectures on the Jews, pp. 79–81. First Edition.
 My friends, the Messrs. Bonar and Mr. Wood, explicitly disclaim this sentiment, and I am far from wishing to fasten it upon them. But the reader will judge whether the statements I advance are unsupported.
 “I am not quite clear,” says the Duke of Manchester, “as to what Mr. Brown intends here. Satan and the world are not important features of Christianity,” &c.—(P. 292.) I can hardly think that this pleasantry will puzzle any one. That none will eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God without resisting and overcoming these enemies, is a somewhat important feature of Christianity; and that is my position.