« PreviousContinue »
definite and not indefinite, fixed and not left to chance : fixed by the law of the land in the matter of weights and measures; fixed in the motions and gravity of the heavenly bodies by the divine law; fixed in the times and seasons of the deluge, the law and the gospel, and by no means left at random. In the set time the flood came, in the appointed time Messiah was cut off, and in the end of time is the great day of the Lord, when the Israelites will have attained to their fulness or perfection of character by their Deliverer's taking away their sins; and the Gentiles' pleroma will have come in by the conversion among
them of all that are heirs of the great salvation, and of all that are necessary to complete the temple of the Lord's body.
The fulness of the Gentiles, therefore, seems to “be come in” when no more Gentiles can come in; otherwise fulness is not fulness, whether it refers to their manner, time, or number, or these all together. When the pleroma of the Gentiles is in, the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and they that are not gathered unto the Lord's granary will never be. Now is the day of salvation, now is the harvest season; these are the times of the Gentiles, this is the gospel summer: but when the pleroma of the Gentiles is once in, the harvest is over, the gospel dispensation is ended, and a new dispensation begins, whether it be in this world or the world to come.
The pleroma of the Jews and also of the Gentiles would seem to occur at the same time, in the end of time. Many of the most devout among the Jews now, as in all past ages of their dispersion, are looking for their restoration in the coming of Messiah and the resurrection of their holy dead. Our fulness is in Christ, and in none other is the fulness of the Jews and also of the Gentiles. This pleroma will appear and be complete when Christ appears; and we shall see him as he is, and be like him. This appears to be the fulness of the true Israel, when the fulness of the Gentiles has been gathered into the house of Jacob, and the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the saints of the Most High.
Many suppose the fulness of the Jews and of the Gentiles indicative of a state of things in time. Others suppose it to be indicative of a mixed state of men in carnal and of men in spiritual bodies, some risen from the dead and others doomed to die. Yet others suppose it to be indicative of that state in which the saints judge the world, to come in the new heavens and the new earth. (Compare 1 Cor. vi. with 2 Peter iii.) Much may be said for and against each of these different suppositions. With the first our reflections are not reconcilable; of the second they admit; and in the third they take delight.
These texts, 2 Peter iii. 12, 13, “ being so express, there is but one way left to elude the force of them; and that is by turning the renovation of the world into an allegory, and making the
new heavens and new earth to be allegorical heavens and earth, not real and material, as
This is a bold attempt of some modern authors. There are allegories, no doubt, in Scripture; but we are not to allegorize Scripture without some warrant, either from an apostolical interpretation, or from the necessity of the matter; and I do not know how they can pretend to either of these, in this case. However, we will examine whether they are or can be turned into an allegory, according to the best rules of interpretation. The question is, whether the new heavens and earth here promised are to be real and material heavens and earth, or only figurative and allegorical. The general rule of interpretation is, not to recede from the literal sense unless there be a necessity from the subject-matter; such a necessity as makes a literal interpretation absurd. But where is that necessity in this case ? Cannot God make new heavens and a new earth as easily as he made the old ones? Is his strength decayed? No necessity can be pretended of leaving the literal sense upon an incapacity of the subject-matter.
The second 'rule to determine an interpretato be literal or allegorical, is the use of the same words or phrase in the context, and the signification of them there. Let us then examine our case according to this rule. St. Peter had used the same phrase of heavens and earth twice before in the same chapter: the old heavens and earth, ver. 5; the present heavens and earth, ver. 7; and now he uses it again, ver. 13, the new heavens and earth. Have we not then reason to suppose that he takes it here in the same sense
that he had done twice before, for real and material heavens and earth? There is no mark set of a new signification, nor why we should alter the sense of the words. That he used them always before for material heavens and earth, I think none will question; and therefore we are bound by this second rule also to understand them in a literal sense.
" Lastly, the very form of the words, and the manner of their dependence upon the context, lead us to a literal sense, and to material heavens and earth. Nevertheless, says the apostle, we expect new heavens, &c. Why nevertheless ? that is, notwithstanding the dissolution of the present heavens and earth. The apostle foresaw what he had said might raise a doubt in their minds whether all things would not be at an end; nothing more of heavens and earth, or of any habitable world, after the conflagration ; and to obviate this, he tells them, notwithstanding that wonderful desolation that I have described, we do, according to God's promises, expect new heavens and a new earth, to be a habitation for the righteous.
“ You see then the new heavens and new earth, which the apostle speaks of, are substituted in the place of those that were destroyed at the conflạgration; and would you substitute allegorical heavens and earth in the place of material ? What an equivocation would it be in the apostle, when the doubt was about the material heavens and earth, to make an answer about allegorical.
Lastly, the timing of the thing determines the sense. When shall this new world appear ? After the conflagration, the apostle says. Therefore it
cannot be understood of any moral renovation, to be made in the times of the gospel, as these allegorists pretend. We must, therefore, upon all accounts, conclude that the apostle intended a literal sense ; real and material heavens, to succeed these after the conflagration ; and I know not what bars the Spirit of God can set to keep us within the compass of a literal sense, if these be not sufficient."
“ The apostle in this discourse does formally distinguish three worlds, (for it is well known that the Hebrews have no word to signify the natural world, but use that periphrasis, the heavens and the earth,) and upon each of them engraves a name and title that bears a note of distinction in it. He calls them the old heavens and earth, the present heavens and earth, and the new heavens and earth. 'Tis true these three are one, as to matter and substance ; but they differ as to form and properties."