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THE SUDDENNESS OF CHRIST'S COMING.
1 THESSALONIANS V. 2.- -"The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night."
Of all the great truths revealed to man in the Gospel, that which perhaps affects us most, is the assurance that we shall rise again from the grave: rise again, never to die any more, but to live for ever and ever. It is this which arouses our hopes and fears, and tends to keep us stedfast in our faith, and careful in the conduct of our lives. It is a doctrine in every way adapted to our welfare; and thanks be to God, it comes to us with the strongest proofs. The very and eternal Son of God, equal to the Father in majesty and honour, came down from heaven and took upon Him our nature, in order that He might bring it to light, and establish
it securely in our hearts; He laid down His life, that we might be pardoned, rescued from everlasting destruction; and He took it again, after He had been three days in the heart of the earth, that we who believe in Him, might not die eternally, but have the blessed hope of rising again, and living with Him in His kingdom—“ Because Christ liveth, we know that we shall live also."
Such, my brethren, is the ground of our belief in this most solemn doctrine of the resurrection : a doctrine that we find, as might be expected, made a frequent topic of discourse by the writers of the New Testament. They appeal to it as the great motive for leading a godly life; they point it out as the crown, and completion of the Christian dispensation; as the time when God's kingdom shall come with power. They make use of it as an argument to dissuade the sinner from his evil course, and to encourage the penitent in well-doing. It is a subject common to them all, but most prominent in the letters, and discourses of St. Paul. This great Apostle, omits no opportunity of introducing it, and drawing from it, as from a well, deep, and large, all the consolation, support, and encouragement with which it is so full. Thus, (to take a single instance,) in the chapter from which my text is taken, he writes to cheer the Thessalonian Christians, under the loss they had sustained by the death
of some of their members;-" Brethren, I would not have you ignorant concerning them that are asleep, that ye sorrow not as others who have no hope; for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even them also which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with Him." And then he goes on to predict, in a very remarkable passage, what will actually take place at the resurrection: "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain at the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep: 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 which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord." Yes, They shall be for ever with the Lord in that future glory, who were wlth Him by faith while in the world: but those who were not with Him here; those who were His enemies by wicked works; shall then be cast off for ever, and given over to be tormented,-of their torment, as of that glory, there shall be no end.
Such is the account which St. Paul was inspired to record of the proceedings at the resurrection: it is an account which may well create feelings of the deepest interest, and awe in all who hear it: to
those of us who have lost our friends, what solace is there in thinking that they are only taken from us for a while, and for their exceeding good; that we shall meet them again, never (provided we be sound in our faith) to be separated more! What blessedness in knowing that though absent" from us in the body, they are present with us in the Lord!'' One thing, indeed, might still seem wanting to complete our happiness: and that is, the time when: the knowledge of the day and hour when the reunion shall be accomplished.
Hearing the description given above by St. Paul, we might almost feel tempted to inquire, (as once did the Apostles of our Lord,)" When shall such things be, and what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world?" But this knowledge is not granted to us, neither could it be,—“ Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." Nor is it at all necessary that we should know this. For every purpose of good, enough has been revealed; and the exact period of the Lord's coming has been designedly, and in mercy, hid from our eyes. "Of the times and seasons, brethren," writes the Apostle, "ye have no need that I write unto you: for you yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." Observe the wisdom of these words: in
stead of giving any encouragement to that curiosity that would look behind the veil, which God has drawn over the counsels of futurity, instead of giving a hint of the probable time of Christ's second appearing; St. Paul avoids this question altogether, and turns aside the attention of his hearers to a far more practical subject; to the suddenness with which that Advent will surprise the world. The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night, and when they shall say peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape."
To know the exact hour would not make men wiser or better, in many cases it would only lead to callous indifference, or despair. But to know that whenever it comes, it will be of a sudden, without note or warning,—this is indeed a useful and highly salutary lesson: for why? it begets caution and diligence, lest "that day overtake us unprepared, lest while we are eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, troubled about many things, and careful only to advance our worldly fortunes, the sign of the Son of man should appear, and God rise up for judgment. At that day, come when it may, we read in the third chapter of the Second Epistle of St. Peter," The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt