Few things are more clear to faith than the fact that Satan ever seeks to corrupt what he cannot destroy, whether the subject of his evil purpose be the saints of God, or any special truth of His word which has engaged and blessed their souls. The truth of the Lord's coming as the blessed hope of the believer is no exception to this. Since the Lord has graciously revived it in this "midnight" hour, the closing period, of the day of grace, it has taken so firm a hold, blessed be His name, upon the souls of His saints everywhere as was never known before since apostolic times; nor was it since those days ever before so generally accepted (through His goodness, and because the time is so near) as it is now. No reason have we to apprehend that, as a doctrine of Scripture, it will ever again lapse into forgetfulness as it did during post-apostolic days down to the commencement of this century.
At the beginning the virgins all went out to meet the Bridegroom; but how soon this testimony was given up, and the whole thing sank down to this - "they all slumbered and slept" - so torpid was Christian life, so silent was true Christian testimony!
But at midnight there went forth an arousing cry - (1) "Behold, the Bridegroom!" (2) "Go ye out to meet Him!" How perfectly this has been fulfilled, and how closely these two things - the person of Christ and the meeting Him, or outgoing of heart to Himself as the coming One in spiritual power and testimony, closely allied as they are in character - were connected in the recovered truth and revived testimony of recent times is patent to many. And we thank God that the power of the Holy Ghost has so accompanied this testimony that Satan's mightiest efforts will achieve no success in depriving Christians of what God has so graciously restored to His Church. But there is danger that the very depth of our convictions on this score, may close our eyes to the more subtle snare to which we are exposed while scripturally sound on the doctrine itself. The finest characteristic which that hope possesses, regarded practically, is its dateless imminence - in other words, its undefined but certain nearness - and therefore if Satan could succeed in removing this peculiar feature, he knows well he would so emasculate it, that while the shell of the doctrine remained in its structural integrity to satisfy its adherents, the kernel would be abstracted, and its intrinsic value surrendered, since it could no longer be an ever-operating power and "blessed hope" before the soul.
Such then is the peculiar danger of the present day; foreseeing which, Scripture in its divine perfectness furnishes a parable expressly to warn against this singular snare which the enemy lays for professing Christians. (Matt. 24:45-51.) Another scripture warns against the scoffers of the last days (2 Peter 3); but that phase of the subject is not now before us. The special snare of Satan in this "midnight" hour, which is the winding up of the last days, is that of the retention of sound doctrine as to "the second or pre-millennial advent," "the advent and personal reign of Christ," or "the Lord's second coming," whichever men may term it, with the worldliness and the like which the Lord sets forth in the beating of fellow-servants, and eating and drinking with the drunken; in other words, the violence and wantonness which, whether exerted or restrained, are the real workings of the flesh and the allowance of the world when developed and displayed.
Pressingly therefore would we bring home to our own soul, and to those of our readers, the deep importance of watching against this declension of heart as to the Lord's return, which is the last snare of our cunning and practised foe. To put what we mean into clear and concise form, can we say, that having been looking for Him so long, for that very reason we are more and more convinced that He is near at hand, and both the desire and the expectation of His coming are, by reason of so long a time having elapsed, growing every day stronger within our souls? This is the true reckoning and conclusion of faith.
Of two things one is clear, that if the long-exercised and dearly-cherished desire of our hearts has not yet been gratified, our souls' expectation not yet fulfilled, either we have therefore clung the more tenaciously to it, having the desire rekindled afresh and more cheerily in our affections each recurring day, and our daily expectation has approximated more and more towards a certainty that He is close at hand, simply because He is surely coming, and has now been expected for so long; or otherwise we have allowed our faith to fail, our desires to cool, and our expectations to falter, having said, as it were, "We have expected Him all these years, and He has never come, nor know we at all when He will;" thus the sense of it, as an everyday increasingly "blessed hope," has escaped from the heart. No marvel that the poor faithless heart turns to the world which it had unwittingly allowed to betray it into declension, saying within itself, "My Lord delayeth His coming," and in consequence giving rein to the flesh and its works.
How different is it to faith! Are earth's scenes at their darkest, the poor body brought down to death's door, as men speak, and life rapidly ebhing away? There is for us no darkness profound enough to be impenetrable to the piercing rays of "the bright and the morning Star," no time so short as to preclude His coming therein, since if there be but time for an eye to twinkle, there is time for Him to come; and, to the joy of His own heart, the first act of His coming will be to produce its full effect upon the bodies of the untold multitudes of His saints in the same twinkling of an eye! To shift the scene, it is equally the privilege of faith to find the Lord's coming the very brightest thing in our horizon, engaging our hearts supremely, and asserting its full place and power never more distinctly than when divine favours upon earth are in their most sparkling array before our grateful and gratified hearts. And if it be not so with us, we may well challenge our souls whether the adorable person of Christ and the promise of His coming again have ever yet assumed their unrivalled place before the eye and in the heart as they should, and as most assuredly they would, were He to us all that He would love to be!
It may suffice if we add to this, that we know nothing that is used of the Holy Ghost more powerfully and more refreshingly to revive from time to time this precious doctrine and hope in the hearts of the saints, than the Lord's Table. And so divinely interlocked are the two things, that seldom if ever are saints really right about either one who are wrong about the other.
The Lord's Supper indeed possesses the wonderful and unique property of converging into one focus His death and His coming, bringing back His death as our only yesterday, and bringing forward His coming as our only tomorrow, the Table being our only today, in which our fellowship is with the Father and the Son, and one with another "until He come." Our yesterday a dead Christ whom we remember, our today a glorified Christ whom we are united to, our tomorrow a coming Christ whom we are longing for, shining upon us as the "bright and the morning Star" while we keep vigil through the long and tearful night of His prolonged and enforced absence.
May the Holy Ghost keep freshly before our souls this "blessed hope," nor suffer it to be impaired by any of the changing scenes of earth; above all, preserving us from, in ever so remote a degree, saying in our hearts, with Laodicean levity and worldliness, "My Lord delayeth His coming." W. R. (D).
It is not in the quantity we do, but in the measure of presenting Christ that the value of our service lies, in a world where there is nothing of God.