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Signs Of The Times.
"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."-Luke 21:28.
The things here referred to are the signs of his coming;-the sure tokens given by himself that He is at the doors. When these are just beginning to unfold themselves, then be of good cheer; your deliverance is at hand (redemption, see Romans 8:23). He uses two remarkable words to indicate the effects which ought to be produced by these premonitory signs;-(1.) lift yourselves up (?ναχυφαι, stoop no more,-lift up your bodies); (2.) lift up your heads; do not merely stand with erect body, but turn your head and eyes upward. The church's posture has hitherto been that of one bowed down (Psalm 14, 38:6, 40:25) under the heavy burdens of an evil day and an evil world. Both body and head are bent towards the earth in grief. But so soon as she hears the signal of her Lord's approach, she rises up from her stooping posture, she looks upwards to descry the coming deliverance and glory.
It is of great moment, then, that we read the signs aright; not only as given here by our Lord, but afterwards by his apostles. It is of little consequence in what order we take them. They are numerous, and scattered over the New Testament. I take them alphabetically for the sake of memory.
I. Antichristianity. I mean not Popery merely, but all the forms, in which opposition to Christ shews itself; whether false doctrine or active hostility to Christ. A false Christianity; error regarding the person and work of Christ; subversion of the cross, and blood, and righteousness of Christ; all the ways in which Christ is opposed, directly or indirectly; in which men are uttering the cry, "We will not have this man to reign over us"; let us break their bands and cast away their cords (Luke 14:14; Psalm 2:3; Acts 4:27). There are many antichrists.
II. Disbelief of the advent. The advent of Christ itself shall be one of the things which scepticism shall assail. There are two classes which shall be found rejecting it,-the professing Christian who says, "My Lord delayeth his coming,"-the scoffing world that says, "Where is the promise of his coming?"
III. Error. The fruit of the tree of knowledge is still being eaten by man, and still infusing its poison. Love of knowledge is the professed starting-point. But in the pursuit of this, God is not acknowledged as the teacher, nor the Bible as the infallible textbook. Speculation abounds; inspired trammels are flung off; pride of intellect operates; man worships his own mind; every day brings forth some novel opinion; revelation is thrust down from its high position; every form of error gets vent; till God gives men over to a reprobate mind, and sends them strong delusion that they should believe a lie. "They will not endure sound doctrine," but are "carried about with every wind of doctrine."
IV. Energy of evil. Evil men and seducers are to wax worse and worse. Sin will unfold itself to the uttermost. The human heart will speak out. It will not be dormant or inactive evil; it will be energetic to the utmost in seeking to counteract the good,-nay, to destroy it utterly. In some ages evil seems to sleep. In the last days it will awake to full life and activity. It will seize every instrument, the press, the pulpit, the platform. It will enlist every science and art,-music, sculpture, painting, poetry, philosophy,-making them all subservient to its development. Satan, both as the prince of darkness, and as an angel of light, will come down, having great wrath, to put forth his wiles, his powers, to the utmost. The multiplication of crimes, contempt of laws, blasphemies, these are specimens of the energy of evil.
V. Formalism. The apostle, after enumerating the sins of the last days, adds this: "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." There is to be the appearance of religion to suit the "religious" part of man's nature; but this is to be coupled with all sin, and error, and ungodliness,-nay, infidelity. Whited sepulchers; wells without water; trees without fruit; lamps without oil; a religion without the Holy Ghost!
VI. Latitudinarianism. Indifference to revealed truth, nay, to all truth; making light of error; holding that all religions are so far right and acceptable, and that there are a thousand ways to heaven, if there be a heaven or a hell at all. Laxity of opinion, and laxity of morals, will prevail. Immorality is to overflow in every form, and will not be condemned. A loose faith, and a loose practice, an easy law, an easy gospel; all the evils described in the third chapter of second Timothy, unfolding themselves, and not disapproved of.
VII. Missions. Towards the close of the last days, we are to expect special efforts in behalf of Jew and Gentile. The gospel is to be preached to all nations. The Jew is to be sought out. The Bible is to go over the earth. The messengers of Christ are to make their errand known. At no time since the apostles has this been the case so much as now.
VIII. Political changer. European changes; the reconstruction of the ten kingdoms; the breaking up of old land marks; the confusion of all political principle; the placing of government in the hands of the lowest; the speaking evil of dignities.
IX. Pride and self-will. The pride of power; the pride of knowledge and intellect; self-reliance; belief in self-regeneration, without the power of God, or the Holy Ghost. Unwillingness to brook restraints: "Our lips are our own; who is Lord over us?" This willfulness or lawlessness is to come to a head in Antichrist; but it is to be manifested everywhere, in the church and in the world. Self-will! That is to be the characteristic of the last days.
X. Restlessness. Many shall run to and fro. The whole world shall be in motion; fermentation everywhere; rushing hither and thither; unable to be still. As the man possessed by a devil could not rest, so our world in the last days, possessed by the devil, shall exhibit the very restlessness of hell,-of him who is ever going to and fro in the earth, walking up and down in it.
XI. Satanic influences. We see this not only in the errors and blasphemies that are abroad,-infidelity and atheism. But we see it in the pretended communications with the invisible world, the spirit-rapping, and spirit-consulting, which is spreading everywhere; so that millions are under these subtle and potent influences.
XII. Wars. The world's great crisis is the Armageddon battle. Up till that time there are to be wars and rumors of wars.
XIII. Worldliness, This present evil world is to be the object of man's idolatry. In this way materialism will shew itself. Religious materialism, ecclesiastical materialism, political materialism. This material world in all its aspects will be worshipped. Luxury, lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, &c., all mingle together to make up the intense worldliness of the last days.
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