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these vanities unto the living God; which made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein : who in TIMES PAST suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.” (Acts xiv. 15, 16.)
The period of redemption, or second creation, is neatly alluded to by the term “ After that," namely after Times past, in another passage of St. Paul: where, after mentioning to Titus,“ his own son after the common faith,” a sample of the manners of the former period, or “ times past,” he continues, " But AFTER THAT the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared ; not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy--by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Saviour.” (Tit. iii. 4-6.)
But it would hardly be supposed, that these two periods of sacred history; the first and second creation, or the time before and after Christ, “times past” and “ after that” are alluded to perhaps as fully and decidedly by the prophets of our Lord during the former period as by his apostles and other immediate followers in the latter ? So however, it appears, as e. g. in the prophecy of Isaiah ; where foreshewing the transition from one period to the other by the coming of Messiah, who is Alpha and Omega--the end of one order or period, and beginning of another, he says, “ Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation; when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grierously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great LIGHT: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the LIGHT shined. For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince
of peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from this time forth, even for ever.” (Isai. ix. 1, 2, 6, 7.) So the new creation springs out of the old, as light out of darkness, or one generation from another.
It will be hard to find any allusion to the two periods now mentioned more direct than this of Isaiah in the whole of the New Testament: the nearest and most parallel to it perhaps, is the beginning of the epistle to the Hebrews, “ God, who in sundry times and in divers manners spake in TIMES PAST unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these LAST DAYS spoken unto us by his Son ; whom he hath appointed heir (or ultimate object) of all things, by whom (the medium as well as object of all things) he also made the worlds.” (Heb. i. 1, 2.) This may seem a rather direct allusion, but it is not, if I may judge, any fuller or more direct than the forecited passage in the prophecy of Isaiah.
The two reigns of Nature and Grace, the meaning of which appears to be commonly understood in some measure, are not an unappropriate designation for the two forementioned periods: and when St. Paul reasons accordingly of Old Things, and New Creations, he very nearly comes up to the sentiment in my text; as for example, “ Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature : OLD THINGS are passed away; behold, all things are become NEW.” (Cor. II. v. 17.) So we read in the
my text, THE FORMER THINGS are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things NEW.” And if we look back over some of the preceding chapters of the Revelations, we may perceive what the old or former things were; in other words, what was the substance of the first period which is abolished in the second ; to wit, death and hell, (Rev. vi. 8,) with all the plagues that are liable to be produced and multiplied upon earth through them; not excepting the chief and most ruinous
plague of superstition, (Ib. xiv. 8, with its abominable mysteries, (Ib. xvii. 5,) false prophets and other false supporters of the same. (Ib. xix. 19, 20.)
If any one will doubt the disgusting and abominable character of the first mentioned period, the period of nature or creation and its awful tendency, if he will stifle the thought, because it reminds him of oldness in the present,-he must not look into Scripture, nor yet consult his own sense and experience: for be cannot thereupon help seeing it. Therefore not being able to deny it, the best that we can say of such period is, that it seems a proper period “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins.” (Dan. ix. 24.) And the law itself also has been no mean auxiliary to this effect, as St. Paul observes, and not with a view to disparage that heavenly gift, but to indicate the advantage of grace over law in a second creation. “ For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise of faith by Jesus Christ mighi be given to them that believe.” (Gal. ii. 21, 22.)
Thus the particular steps by which one order or period glides into the other are described and laid open to us; as sin and death gliding into the righteousness of faith and new life; the law and condemnation into the gospel and grace; till the former things are passed away, and all things be made new'. But not so however, that either the old creation be utterly and immediately abolished on the appearance of the new, or that the new shall be born in its plentitude contrary to the natural order of succession : which is for old things to die off gradually as the new come on, though the death of the old is generally computed from its departure, and the being of the new from its entrance into life. Wherefore St. John speaking of this revolution in one place uses the present tense only; and not the past, nor yet the future. He says, “ all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the
eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father ; but is of the world. And THE WORLD PASSETH AWAY, and the lust thereof, but HE THAT DOETH THE WILL OF GOD ABIDETH FOR EVER.” (John I. ii. 16, 17.) He says, Passeth,” not Is passed; and “ Abideth," not Will abide ; which deserves to be remarked. So the royal preacher says with a similar scope or intention, “ One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh : but the earth abideth for ever.” (Eccl. i. 4.) It may be a comfort under all circumstances, to reflect, that so long as the earth abideth, so long will he that doeth the will of God continue to honour it with his presence: that there may be such a man once in a thousand, (Ib, vii. 28,) for certain; though the wicked world can never think it possible, through the enormity and universality of its own wickedness; naturally believing only that which it is, and which it delights in, namely evil; as those who have the misfortune to be born blind might naturally doubt of the wonders of the visible creation. And in what else does the world grow old, but in evil,-in evil wishes and in evil works; as our Saviour says, “ And because iviquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold,” (Matt. xxiv. 12,) in his prediction of the last days ? The world grows old in two ways at once,-in sinning and in suffering; it is old in misery as in iniquity : “ destruction and unhappiness is in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known, there is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Ps xiv. 7.)
Such is the senility of the world. And who does not perceive its progress, in the decline of natural affection; as first from that sweet sentiment as worthy of angels as of men to a passion that is called Desire properly, but more commonly Love; and then, from love to lust of various degrees? Who does not perceive how a simple confidence in the being and attributes of God declines also at the same time; yielding first to scepticism and distrust, then to infidelity and aversion, then to downright apostacy and atheism ? For such indeed is the case : and in this way it is that the world declines, grows old and “ passeth away." Which I have thought fit to premise of the old world, in order to show by comparison the way of the new : " which (says St. Paul) after God (or as we may In his image again) is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph. iv. 24.) “ And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie:” (Rev. xxi.
. 27:) as St. John heard in his vision by a great voice out of Heaven, saying, “ The former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new ;” (Ib. 4, 5;) and as Isaiah also prophesied, saying, “ Behold a King shall reign in righteousness :" (Isai. xxxii. 1:) except, that our text attributes something more to the New Dignity, than even the high privilege, the most honourable destiny upon earth, of reigning in a state of righteousness; which is, that of creating such a state to reign in ; dispersing abuses which had been long gathering to a head, and making the kingdom more worthy of his sceptre, before he would either own, or govern, or have any thing to do with it. So we find in my text just repeated the Author of the new or second creation decreeing that magnificent work from the throne on which he sat: or so much may be presumed from the context; by the help of which we are enabled to distinguish three several terms in the text, each deserving a separate consideration; namely
1, The new King or Creator;
The context alluded to particularly is at the end of the chapter preceding our text; and relates to the apostle's vision of the future judgment of mankind after that of the old serpent, now sentenced first again, as he was originally at the fall of man : when having mentioned his vision of “the devil that deceived them" being cast into