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A man is said to be wise in his own conceits when, in the absence of real knowledge and information, he persuades himself that he does understand, and, pleased with his fancied discoveries, vaunts his own false conceits in the room of true wisdom. To prevent this, St. Paul would unfold a mystery.
A mystery signifies some hidden truth, some secret in the plan or proceeding of God which revelation can alone explain. The mystery was this: this partial blindness or hardness (for the apostle admits not that it was universal) was only to last“ till the fulness of the Gentiles was come in,” “ and so," or, “and then all Israel shall be saved." By the word “ fulness” is intended, I conceive, that remnant which was then begun to be gathered, and still is being gathered, by the preaching of the Gospel. They are a body of people taken to “ fill up," as it were, the gap or scissure made in Israel by the cutting off of so many of the natural branches : when the number decreed shall be completed, then will the end come of the present dispensation of Christ's kingdom, which will be succeeded by a more glorious dispensation, to commence with the general restoration of Israel.
Some, by “ the fulness of the Gentiles," understand their coming in, in a mass, in contradistinction to this gathering of a thinly scattered people, which has hitherto been all the real effect of the preaching of the Gospel in the Gentile world. That such an event will take place is clear from prophecy; but then the conversion of all nations is an event predicted as subsequent to the restoration of Israel; but the “fulness of the Gentiles” here spoken of, will have come in previously to that event. Besides, the use of the word we render “ fulness," in the New Testament, for the mass or generality, in opposition
to a part of, or a small portion of a people, does not seem so frequent as that of “ something put in to fill up.”
The “fulness of Israel,” in the twelfth verse of this chapter, may, indeed, be urged to the contrary; and what is there called the fulness is certainly the bulk and general body of Israel, at the time of their restoration all the survivors at least; but why they are called by this term is still a question. I am afraid there is reason to conclude from prophecy, that there will be found a dreadful chasm to fill up in the church of Christ, at the eve of these great events. We were told, in a former prophecy, that “ the end shall not come, unless there come a falling away first." The world has long witnessed this great apostasy among nominally Christian nations, but it has not yet witnessed its end; and I much question whether we have any warrant in Scripture to expect, as to the world at large, before the day when the Son of Man is revealed, the decrease of them that have a form of godliness and deny its power The words of our divine Master are awfully portentous :- “ WHEN The Son of Man COMETH, WILL HE FIND FAITH UPON THE EARTH?”
The fulness of the nations may certainly be said to have come in, when the Gospel has gathered out of them all it can gather, and the nations themselves are given up to destruction, and this seems to be the fate impending over all apostate churches and nations at the second advent, when, as the apostle says in the following verse, “ There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” And it is written also, in the prophecy from whence these words are quoted, that at that period,
Darkness covers the earth,
We cannot but remark also, at the close of this eleventh chapter to the Romans, how the apostle is led to contemplate this restoration of the natural descendants of Abraham as the consummation of all the plan of redemption. For it is on this occasion that he exclaims, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" as though in the winding up of the history of Israelites and Gentiles - as the dispensation of the kingdom bears upon them respectively, you saw the development of all the mystery of providence and redemption. First, during the unbelief of the ancient people, the remnant from among the Gentiles obtain mercy, are raised at that era from a state of total darkness and unbelief by the almighty power of God. So, hereafter, from a similar state of darkness and unbelief, shall the ancient people of God be raised up by the same almighty power. Thus through the Gentiles' mercy they will obtain mercy: that is, I conceivethrough a similar exercise of mercy.-An apostate people, the Gentile churches, will be given up to judgment — and God will be “ found of them that sought him not, and made manifest to them that asked not for him" - Israel “ shut
up in unbelief.”
Heb. ix. 27, 28; Tit. ii. 11; with 2 Tim. iv. 6, and
1 Thess. i, 9; iii. 5.
SOME expressions in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, respecting the exposition of the eighth
psalm, and the putting in subjection of the world to come, not to angels, but to the Son of Man, we have already anticipated, in illustration of the fifteenth chapter of St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, I shall only further quote, from this to the Hebrews, the twentyseventh and eighth verses of the ninth chapter :
“ And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.",
This plainly contrasts the business of the first with the business of the second advent. At the first, the Redeemer came to die, that the many for whom he was made an offering might not die, but be quickened unto everlasting life: at the second, he comes to his waiting family, not with sin -- the sins of his people imputed to him, that he might become a sin-offering for them; but in another character, as their great Deliverer -“ the Lord from heaven.” And as his death saved them from the bitterness of death, so his coming again saves them frona the judgment to come. For, as we have learnt before, both with respect to them that wake and with respect to them that sleep, the second coming of Christ delivers them from among those that are to abide the judgment of the strictness of justice, and from the vengeance to be poured upon the ungodly.
The Scriptures already considered will enable us to perceive, without comment, the bearing and true application of the following, Tit. ii. 11, &c :
“ For the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, and righteously, and
godly, in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and,” - or rather, “ even the glorious appearing of the great God, and," — or,
even our Saviour Jesus Christ." And again, when, in his Second Epistle to Timothy, the apostle speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ :
“ Who shall judge the quick and dead at his appearing and kingdom."
And also, when expressing his resignation and hopes, the apostle, condemned, as it appears, to suffer the penalty of death, exclaims :
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand; I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid
up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing.”
We remark here, that “ loving the appearing of our Lord” is used as a definition of, or, at least, as a sufficient characteristic whereby to designate a true believer: and the same style may be noticed in other passages. Thus the same apostle, speaking of the conversion of the Thessalonians, observes : “ How ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven:" + and again, in his prayer, for the same people, in his Second Epistle: “ And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ." I
2 Tim. iv. 6.
+ Chap. i. 9, &c.
Chap. iii. 5.