The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times *

J. N. Darby.

<13011E> 152

{*[A copious analysis of a paper bearing the above title, and printed originally in the Quarterly Journal of Prophecy for July, 1849 (vol. 1, pp. 412-434), was sent some time after to the author. Hence the following remarks, extracted from two letters, which communicated the writer's judgment of its false and dangerous doctrine. Of this the reader can judge for himself by the ample quotations, in the shape of notes, presented below. If the statements were merely ignorant, and withal faulty, as pretending to accuracy with the greatest confusion, one might have passed them by in silence; but where fundamental principles are wanting, unknown, and virtually denied, it is surely worth while to rouse those who value the truth of the gospel, and to put simple unsuspecting souls on their guard, even though some who see not beneath the surface may be quick to charge us with a lack of charity. — Ed.]}

      Pau, March, 1850.

My dear -,

I send you some lines on the paper you refer to. It has a character far more important than mere error as to a dispensational arrangement. The writer, whoever he may be, is evidently one of the semi-Irvingite school, who retain the foundation error which led to all poor Irving's heresies and wanderings; namely, making an incarnate Christ head, instead of a Christ who had accomplished redemption, and thus excluding redemption as the groundwork of the new accepted creation of God. It is quite true that the glorious person of the Lord Jesus gave Him the title and competency to hold all things, but then it was not His being a man that did so. That is expressly based, in Colossians, on His divine competency. He is the firstborn of every creature, for by Him were all things created. It is quite true that His being a man entered in the marvellous wisdom of God into the place of headship, but this was not His personal title de jure, but by the counsels of God. "Thou hast set him" — and then His death, and redemption accomplished by it, and His resurrection, enter necessarily into these counsels, as in Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2. Further, when we take up the question of the elements of a dispensation, the principles on which it is carried on form part of the elements, as well as the person to whom it is confided.

153 But, having touched on the spring of deep-laid and deadly error which is the basis of this system, I will now speak of the statements it contains. First, where οἰκονομία is spoken of, what is said seems to me to be a dispute about words. I admit fully that there were two grand headships — as do all Christians with different degrees of light — the first and Second Adams', whether as heads of families or lords of the spheres put under them of God. The primary title of Christ, let us only remember, is paramount to that of having things put under Him. That refers to the Son of man. His primary title is His being Creator as Son: all things created by Him and for Him. But I am not aware that the first or Adamic state is ever called a dispensation, or οἰκονομία, or anything like it.*

{*"If the generic character of what in scripture is called an economy, or dispensation, be, as we hold it is, government delegated to one who is constituted, either in a more or less limited sense, the head of creation — then it is evident that, from the beginning of the world, till the first coming of our Lord, there was only one dispensation that, with its specific differences, possessed the same general character as that of the fulness of times. We refer to the period during which Adam was clothed with authority, as head over all things in this lower world. That period formed the dispensation, as it may be called, of the beginning of time; and while time was still only in its beginning, that primary dispensation was, through the illapse of sin, precipitated to a close. The interval between the fall and the incarnation, between the ruin of the first and the appearing of the Second Adam, does not, in its whole history, present any distinct order of things which might, with scriptural propriety, be termed a dispensation. There was doubtless a peculiar form of government set up during the interregnum; the administration of affairs was entrusted to the angels of heaven, and especially during the Mosaic period, as scripture abundantly testifies; but the angels were not placed in a relation of headship towards men, such as was occupied once by the first Adam, and is now occupied by the Second; therefore their exercise of government did not possess a true dispensational character. They were not constituted lords of creation, so far as appears from scripture, but were rather ministers of state, who stood before the throne of Jehovah, and were, for a season, charged by Him with the functions of executive government." (Pages 416, 417.) "There being only two dispensations, based on the principle of creation-headship, namely, the Adamic and the Messianic," etc. (p. 419.)}

But there is another word which is employed in scripture, which does give distinct periods entirely overlooked in the paper, and which altogether overthrows its denial of divisional periods, which Christians in general call dispensations,* as when the principles on which they are carried on are distinct; namely, the word αἰών and αἰῶνες. Of these scripture does speak, but it never speaks of οἰκονομία as a period at all. This latter word is employed, says the writer, "only once in the New Testament, to denominate a distinct period of the world's history"; and, again, " 'the dispensation of the fulness of times' is just, in other terms, the delegated administration, or government, of the fulness of times; or, by an obvious and easy transition, the period during which that administration, or government, exists." But this is out of place in insisting on the accurate force of a word. The scripture, the Lord Himself there, does speak of periods carried on under God on different principles (which are very justly called dispensations), whereas, one of the writer's periods is never called οἰκονομία, nor is this word ever applied to, nor does it mean, a period at all. "So shall it be in the end of this age" (τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου), says the Lord. (Matt. 13.) So He appeared ἐπὶ συντελείᾳ τῶν αἰώνων. (Heb. 9.) Now, αἰών clearly signifies, in such passages, a period or course of time in which certain principles have sway on God's part. Thus, until the end of the age, judgment, which plucks up out of this world, is not to be exercised by the Lord's servants; whereas, in the end of it, judgment will gather out of the kingdom of the Son of man all scandals. And hence it is also that this present time is called (not I judge a dispensation, but) a parenthesis,** because the Lord Jesus speaks of "this age" when He was upon earth, as the same as that which will close by judgment at the end; but this was a period connected with His relationship with Jews, and which will not be closed till He again is present in person; whereas, in the interval, the Church of the first-born has been gathered for heaven. Another reason why it has been called so, and proof that it is so, is, that sixty-nine of Daniel's weeks are run out, and then there is an interval of ages, and the last week begins again to run on and be counted.

154 {*"The government will be for ever on Christ's shoulder; therefore the dispensation which has already begun, will never terminate. In the proper and scriptural sense of the expression, there can never be another economy than that on which we have already entered. In so far as true dispensational elements are concerned, we have been cast on times destined to be eternal. There will — there must — be changes. Owing to the general, the well-nigh universal non-recognition of Christ's headship, it is necessary that unexampled changes — changes subversive of the whole apparent order of things — should take place, in order to unfold the real nature of this dispensation, and win, for the great truths which form the basis of it, the willing acknowledgment of the world … Let not the prestige of stupendous coming change create the idea that yet another economy must be ushered in upon the theatre of creation. Heaven and earth may pass away, but the economy that now exists, identified as it is with Christ's headship, shall never pass away." (Pages 415, 416.) "The dispensation of the fulness of times, then, was not preceded by any order of things possessing a proper dispensational character, except the Adamic, which was only of very brief duration; and it never will — we must for a moment recall the attention of our readers to the fact — be superseded by any other dispensational system. No changes, however great, that may yet set in upon the tide of time, will shake or undermine its God-laid foundations. In its grand, generic principles it will endure throughout eternity. The millennial age will, in no true dispensational element, differ from the evangelistic age that is now revolving. Our brethren, whether pre-millenarian or holding opposite views, who speak of the thousand years as a new dispensational era, we are far from being disposed to charge with rashness; but we are persuaded that they use the term dispensation in an improper sense." (Page 418.) "The eternal duration, speaking prospectively, of the very economy that is now running its course, is so far from being admitted by some of our brethren, that they regard the present economy as merely parenthetical … Were anything of that kind introduced, it would necessarily suspend the existence of the established or current economy; in other words, it would supersede, for an interval, the existing Head of creation from His right of government; but the right referred to, after being once conferred, and so long as it has not been forfeited, cannot possibly be, even for a brief interval, superseded, or thrown into abeyance; and, therefore, the insertion of a parenthetical dispensation is impossible." (Pages 419, 420.)}

{**"If the scriptural basis be, as we hold, the principle of creation-headship; and if Christ be now, by God's appointment, the head of creation; then, clearly, the period between Christ's resurrection and His second advent is so far from being parenthetical, or interruptive, that it belongs, as a necessary and integral portion, to the dispensation of the fulness of times." (Page 419.) "Some seem to be of the opinion, that all pre-millennialism labours under the vicious necessity of putting these gospel-times within brackets — of making the present age a mere parenthesis in the world's history." (Page 420.)}

155 I need not say that I admit the headship of Christ, but I have shewn briefly that scripture speaks of periods, and that in reference to the most important subjects possible, by words very justly, in substance, translated dispensations, and I am not here to discuss language, but things. But I add, on the other hand, that οἰκονομία does not mean headship of creation at all, but administration; and that it cannot mean it in the passage referred to, because there is another word (ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι) which does precisely mean it, and which states that that is the particular form of the οἰκονομία, or administration, here ordained of God. Nor does it mean, by any transition, a period, for another word (καιρῶν) is used to express that also. I give the passage literally: "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself for the administration of the fulness of times, [namely] to head up all things in Christ, the things in heaven and the things on earth, in Him in whom also we have an inheritance," etc. Now, here οἰκονομία, administration, is as simple a word as possible. The particular kind of administration is heading up all things in Christ. The importance of this remark is this, that it overthrows absolutely all the reasoning on οἰκονομία, which seeks to identify the headship of Christ and the term οἰκονομία, and thereby exclude all other periods, this being in terms the only one. The whole reasoning is based on this, which is a total mistake.*

156{*"The critical accuracy is not to be despised as little or unworthy, which aims at ascertaining not only the general import of each divinely-indited sentence, but likewise, if possible, the precise idea attaching to each divinely-indited word. Indeed, accuracy of verbal interpretation is absolutely necessary to determine even the general drift of much that is written, and it were an easy, though not a grateful, task, to illustrate the justness of this statement, by adducing many instances of erroneous exposition, attributable to nothing whatever but the want of verbal accuracy …

"These remarks may seem foreign to the subject announced at the head of this article, but we have been led into them naturally enough by the course of our meditations on that very subject. We apprehend that dispensation, or economy, for the words are identical in meaning, is generally used as a theological term, with greater latitude than the scripture application of it warrants. A less arbitrary use of it, one more exactly conformed to scripture precedent, would afford a correct as well as comprehensive, principle, for the classification of God's dealings with our world, and prevent much loose speculation, perhaps much barren controversy.

"The word referred to, is employed only once in the New Testament, to denominate a distinct period of the world's history; but an examination of the passage in which it occurs will enable us, without much difficulty, to ascertain the idea there attached to it, and the characteristic features of the period which it designates … The Greek word, here rendered dispensation, literally signifies stewardship, and in that signification it is repeatedly used in scripture — most frequently to denote the ministerial charge, etc. … In this its proper and more common scriptural acceptation, the word involves the ideas of delegated authority and responsible trust. These ideas are not excluded from the meaning of the word as it is employed in the passage before us. Indeed they constitute the essential and generic portion of its meaning, wheresoever it is used in the New Testament. 'The dispensation of the fulness of the times' is just, in other words, the delegated administration, or government, of the fulness of times; or, by an obvious and common transition, the period during which that administration, or government, exists. To determine the peculiar nature of the economy, or administration, referred to, we must consult the statement made by the apostle regarding it. Ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῶ Χριστῶ is the explanatory language which he uses. It means, according to the English version, 'that he might gather together in one (i.e., concentrate under the rule or government of one head) all things in Christ.'" Then, after a quotation from Owen (Exp. Ep. Heb. cap. 1) to the same effect, the writer sums up: "Christ's government, then, or his headship over creation, is the grand characteristic feature which marks the dispensation of the fulness of times or, it may be termed, the Messianic economy." (Pages 412-414.)}

157 But there are other grave errors in things, not in words. The writer has confounded the right flowing from the person of Christ with the state in which He exercises the right, and this with increase of error, because he has misstated the ground of the title, declaring it to be the incarnation, and hence fixing the period at the time of that event; whereas scripture in terms founds it on His divine creatorship, which is clearly wholly independent of that. Hence the argument founded on incarnation wholly fails, because it is not at all the epoch of de jure title.* This is His being Creator. His incarnation gives us the Person who is to hold this power, and we have to search from the word when it is that God is pleased to set Christ over all things. The incarnation is the introduction or manifestation of the Person who is to possess, but is neither the epoch nor state in which the right begins, or possession is had, for as man Christ receives the headship. It is a matter of divine counsel, not inherent right, though this man as Creator had the right. So scripture always speaks, and we cannot depart from scripture. "Thou didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet." (Heb. 2.) "Whom he hath appointed heir of all things." (Heb. 1.) "God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth," etc. (Phil. 2.) Again: "He raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality," etc., "and hath put all things under his feet," etc. (Eph. 1.)

{*"That the dispensation" (i.e. of the fulness of times) "did not begin before the incarnation of our Lord, is evident from the manner in which it is spoken of by the apostle; besides, though unquestionably the Lord acted throughout all preceding ages with a reference to the character in which He was afterwards to appear, yet it was not till He actually appeared in that character, and formally claimed as His own the government of the world, that the dispensation could properly be said to take its commencement. On the other hand, the commencement of the dispensation cannot be postponed to the date of the incarnation. No sooner had that marvellous event set an historic seal to the announcement of ancient prophecy, 'Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,' than the government was, de jure, or by God's act of devolution, laid on the shoulder of Christ, and the economy of the fulness of times thus put in movement" (Pages 414, 415.)}

158 But this brings out another and fatal error in the system. Though incarnation manifested the Person who was to be set over all things, it was not in incarnation at all that He was set over all things. This very grave error excludes redemption title altogether, than which nothing can be more grave. But let us see what scripture says. On earth Christ is sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matt. 15:24.) In John you will find His divine person brought out, but never supremacy or the time of glory: "My time is not yet come"; and, again: "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." (John 12.)

Further, how is man to be set over all things? Being made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death,* then crowned with glory and honour. We see not yet all things put under Him, but we see the person and the work accomplished necessary for it, and the personal glory in which He is to take it, which is consequent on death. And the Lord Himself is most positive and explicit: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." (Matt. 28:18.) But it is only after His resurrection that He says so. Previously He had forbidden to go to the Gentiles. (Matt. 10.) Now as a consequence of that exaltation, He sends them to all nations. For He had a baptism to be baptized with, and how was He straitened till it was accomplished! (Luke 12.). For indeed it became Him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. And note, that this is in immediate connection (Heb. 2) with putting all things under His feet. The passages I have already cited are positive on the subject that it is Christ as risen, and not before, who is set over all things. Philippians 2 gives further the contrast of His life here with His exaltation over all things, and the reason why it is so, in contrast with the first Adam. "Being in the form of God, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant" (not of headship), "and was made in the likeness of men" (this is incarnation, then, the opposite of what the writer makes it); "and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." The meritorious title of Christ is set aside by the imaginary system of the writer. The first Adam exalted himself and was abased; the Second humbled Himself and was exalted. It is not, remark further, that this is necessary to obtain the recognition of the government by man; it is the "wherefore" of His being there on the part of God.

{*[Taking the version of those who connect "on account of the suffering of death" with His being crowned, a construction preferred by Winer and many modern scholars, the case is at least as strong. — Ed.]}

159 But it is said, Christ was born a King.* King of what? Is this His headship as Son of man? In no wise, but in contrast with it. He was born King of the Jews. On this footing He was presented to the Jews, as the prophets had been on the footing of the then dispensation (for dispensation it was), and if received would have crowned and glorified it. But that could not be; for, after sending many messengers to have the fruit of the vineyard, He said, I have yet one Son; it may be they will reverence my Son. That is, Christ was sent as having right there in God's name, and was presented as a stone to the builders, but in vain. As He says, "then have I laboured in vain." Hence we find that, instead of Messianic being the same thing (though He be always the Christ), it is said, that He commanded them straitly not to tell any man that He was the Christ, for the Son of man must suffer many things, etc. And then He shews the glory. (Matt. 16, Mark 8, Luke 9.) So even in the Psalms: we have Psalms 1 and 2 the righteous man and anointed King of Zion, and then, in the intervening Psalms, His rejection, resulting (Ps. 8) in the fuller glory of Son of man — the Psalm quoted to shew the testimony of infants when rejected as Messiah, and His exaltation to headship of all things. (Heb. 2, Ephes. 1, 1 Cor. 15.)

{*"Who can deny that Christ was born a King? or that He came into the world as the Second Adam, head over creation? He appeared, it is true, and that for great reasons of state, if the expression may be used, in a condition of deepest abasement; He was so disguised that there was scarcely one who could 'declare His generation' as the eternal Son; yet He spoke with authority, as one who was conscious of universal lordship, and had claims on universal loyalty. His claims were not recognised except by a few who had been waiting for Him, as the consolation of Israel; and till this day they have never been recognized except by the election of grace: but want of recognition cannot divest Him of His authority, nor abolish His claims. We, therefore, maintain that ever since the day of the incarnation, or the day when Christ began to exist in a condition of God-manhood, the dispensation of the fulness of times has been running its course." (Page 415.)}

160 That God had always in purpose to set man in Christ over all things, I freely admit, and that God never swerved from it, nor suspended it. The question is, What were His dealings with man in respect of it? Adam forfeited by the fall, as to conferred title, his headship of man; so that a Second and other Man needed to be introduced, and Christ was another Head set up in resurrection. The judgment to be executed was finally executory on Christ's rejection, not because Adam had not forfeited, but because it was proved there was no remedy for the forfeiture in the first Adam — not even by the presence of the incarnate Son of God, and a new man must be set up in resurrection, who had triumphed over all the consequences of the failure of the first man, and over the power of him who had brought it in, both in living temptation and in his power of death, and had borne also the consequences on the part of God, according to His holy counsels and righteous nature, in expiation and for reconciliation. Such a new man, I say, set up in resurrection as Head, as so risen, of the new creation, was to be established Heir of all things. And hence Paul does not hesitate to say that, though he had known Christ after the flesh, he knew Him henceforth no more. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God. (2 Cor. 5.)

But supposing then Adam's forfeiture, but that it was not, as to God's public dealings with man, held irreparable till he had rejected Christ, was all chaos?* Did God do nothing meanwhile? He employed all the means which would prove whether it was reparable. He would leave man without law, though not without testimony, and then be obliged to destroy creation; He would place him under government in Noah; He would call him by promise in Abraham, make him a peculiar people, and put him under law, apart from all others in privilege. And as to this, with whatever discernment in detail, Christians speak of dispensations. But I deny entirely that the Adamic state is called an οἰκονομία, or that οἰκονομἱα signified period anywhere. On the other hand, when Adam had forfeited his title and was driven out from the place where God had set him, he then became, and not before, the head of a sinful race; and God did deal in new ways with man, as "do these things, and thou shalt live," to prove what his state was. And Christ becomes head of a new race when risen; for the grain of wheat otherwise remains alone. (John 12.)

{*"The moment of the fall leaves us, so to speak, without dispensational ground whereon to stand; we are flung forthwith upon revolutionary or transition times — we are involved in the wreck of old creation; everything around us is collapsed and ruinous: chaos resumes its ancient reign — and, once more, all things are 'without form and void.' God's sabbath is interrupted; again He arises to work, and to make all things new. Meanwhile, no proper headship, or dispensational government, obtains; a provisional and temporary administration, under different outward forms, is established, and so things continue till what may be termed descriptively the sixth day of new creation arrives. Then Christ, the second Adam, is miraculously formed in the womb of a virgin; a new economy, infinitely better and greater than the first, is consequently brought in; the government is laid upon Christ's shoulder, and headship given to Him over all in heaven as well as on earth." (Pages 417, 418.)}

161 Next, though Christ has now all power in heaven and on earth, and faith is to be exercised on that, He does not, as regards the government of the earth, exercise His power in judgment. He does not act in its public government, as He will act when He takes to Him His great power and reigns. He is hid in God, and hence He forbids His servants to root up the tares; whereas, He will root them up hereafter; that is, contrary to what is stated by the writer, the principles of action are distinct. What is forbidden now is executed then; and, unless grace and judgment be the same, the present time and the future are different. We suffer with Him while He is hidden in God; we reign with Him when manifested. Present things remain in this sense, that that by which I am called, that which I enjoy as a Christian, will remain. Now I have it in hope, and by the Spirit then actually in an incorruptible body. But the state of things does not remain; nor is the grace in which all is carried on now in the government of the world, so that judgment of the tares is forbidden, the same thing as judgment and righteousness according to which Christ will reign as Melchizedek in that day.* The things that remain are in contrast with the Mosaic dispensation, but the things which remain are my heavenly portion in Christ, and as to this we are already in union with Christ, sitting in heavenly places.

{*"There are men who shrink with exceeding nervousness from the doctrine of our Lord's pre-millennial advent, under the apprehension that the doctrine referred to sweeps away the economy of grace altogether, and brings in an economy of a wholly different kind. Let these men not tremble, as they do, for the ark of God; the name of our coming Saviour is not Ichabod. The glory will not depart when He comes, far less because of His coming into our world — His world and ours. The grace that reigns now will reign then; then will the outgoings of grace be more abundant, and its triumphs more illustrious than now." (Page 418.) "Is it a dispensation of grace now? So it will be after the appearing of our great God and Saviour. Is it a dispensation of the Spirit now? So it will be during the thousand years. The advent will even usher in the spring-tide of the dispensation, as regards its element of grace, no less than as regards its other necessary elements. Then windows will be opened in heaven, and blessing be poured out so abundantly that there shall not be room enough to receive it. The Spirit shall be poured out from on high, and 'the wilderness shall be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be counted for a forest.'" (Page 419.)}

162 Further, the writer says, "We ought to consider the Mosaic age, or system, not as a dispensation at all, but merely as a shadow of the dispensation that was approaching."* The figures which accompanied it were types of various parts, or of the whole of what was to come, but in no sense was the Jewish order itself. There was no delegated head at all; and, as to its principle, was law the same as grace, or a figure of it? Was the ministry of death and condemnation a shadow of that of righteousness and of life? The Aaronic service (for the law had a shadow of good things to come in the parts of it) was a figure of what is now, but not of the millennial time: Melchizedek is that. The person of Christ is like His title to priesthood; but the figure of Aaron refers to Christ hid in heaven, not manifest on earth.

{*"Non-scriptural expression has so stereotyped the expression, that it is now difficult to avoid speaking of the Mosaic in contradistinction to the christian dispensation, as if the periods referred to were characterized by two several forms of government, having distinctive peculiarities, but generically the same; whereas, we ought to consider the Mosaic age, or system, not as a dispensation at all, but merely as a shadow of the dispensation that was approaching. Whatever in the Mosaic institutes had a dispensational aspect did not exhibit that aspect, because it possessed in itself, intrinsically or really, a dispensational character, but solely because it was representative or typical of the Messianic economy." (Page 417.)}

163 The economy of the fulness of times then was in no sense put in movement by the incarnation; nor could it be, because death, and resurrection, and redemption came in, and a new creation, which changed everything in the very groundwork of our relation, and the relation of all things, with God. It is not in detail merely the writer is wrong, but in the foundations of truth. The incarnation manifested the person of the Head in the midst of the old creation; the resurrection and glorification set Him, according to the counsels of God, in the place of the Head of the new. Only that, as it was part of the counsels of God that He should have co-heirs, He does not take the power and reign until they are gathered; and all consequently is spoiled again here below.

Further, the writer is entirely ignorant of what the principle is which others have spoken of, when saying that what now is was hid. It is not the sufferings and glory of Christ which were hid: no absurdity could be greater than such an assertion.* It is the Church — the union of Jews and Gentiles in one body, and the union of this one body to Christ — which was, according to the apostle, "hid in God." A member of Messiah would have been the most incongruous and absurd of expressions and ideas to an ancient saint. Messiah was a person. The whole doctrine of the body of Christ, and even its existence, was a hidden mystery, revealed now to apostles and prophets, and manifested now to angels. (Eph. 3.) Many truths, which render its reception easy to a Jew, were revealed in the prophets, but never the mystery itself. Some types perhaps can now be understood, but revealed nothing then.

{*"No one can say that this Gospel era is omitted or overlooked. The predictions of the Old Testament tell of the sufferings of Christ as well as of the glory that was to follow; they point to the days that are even now passing, as well as to happier times. Yet they attest their divine authorship, by glancing," etc. (Page 421.) "Let us not then expect to find prophecies, the object of which is to give a well-proportioned view of the whole Messianic dispensation, occupied especially with details relating to the present stage of the dispensation — a stage of it which is merely initial and preliminary.'' — Ibid.}

In fine, Christ did not formally claim as His own the government of the world at His incarnation. His government and headship over creation are not to be confounded. The government laid on His shoulder is not His headship over creation. His being born a King is not His headship over creation either. And, though it be the Messiah who is set over all things, it is not as Messiah, but as Son of man; and as Son of man, it is not till after His death that all power in heaven and in earth is, by God's act of devolution, laid on Him. Till then, though the person was there who was to have it, man and the Jews were put to the test; and until Christ was rejected, the time was not come for Him to take this place. The firstborn son of a king is designated heir; but, till his father's death, the government is not in his hands. First, says the Lord, He must suffer many things and be rejected of this generation.

164 I have thus rapidly given you some words in reply to your analysis. You will see that I have taken, as I necessarily must take, your statements as accurate, and founded my arguments on them in reply, though the doctrine of the writer be evident, so that my reasoning is at any rate just. Still its form necessarily refers to the actual statement you have given.

    Montpellier, April, 1850.

Dearest K-,

There are some points on which I could have shewn more clearly, I think, how entirely without foundation the groundwork of the paper on οἰκονομία is, but nothing important that I am aware in principle. For instance, headship is not at all involved in οἰκονομία. That, I think, I have noticed. But when the writer says, "the administration of affairs was entrusted to the angels of heaven, and especially during the Mosaic period" (page 146), that is precisely οἰκονομία. The principal point is the entire absence of redemption and the resurrection state in the author's plan.

His reasoning about grace is all false. Grace from the beginning was, through the introduction of sin, the only means of remedy, and shall be to the end; but the reigning in righteousness is not now the principle of God's direct government in the earth. It will be in the millennium.

Another point is forgotten, that the Church is to be taken up to heaven, and forms part of the earthly system only so far as reigning over it. The Old Testament no doubt speaks of the millennial state on earth, and partially of principles now in activity, which warrant the present state of things by the testimony of God, so as to close the mouth of a Jew; but it never speaks of the Church's condition in the millennium, more than of its state now. It does not enlarge on the Church's portion at that time, nor on its heavenly state more than on its present condition. It is not only that the Old Testament prophecies speak largely of the millennial glory, and little of this earlier age of the dispensation (adopting, for a moment, the writer's phraseology), but that they never speak of the Church at all.* It was a hidden mystery. The total ignorance of this mystery makes all the writer's remarks a blank in spiritual intelligence to him who knows it.

{*"The predictions relating to the wilderness journey are rapid, cursory, and allusive, while those which direct hope to the land flowing with milk and honey are of an absorbing and final character. Is it then reasonable, in the other case — we mean the case of the antitype — to expect that prophecy, comparatively overlooking the full maturity of this dispensation, and the great object of the Church's hope, should fill up with its revelations this interval of unripe and imperfect experience between the Church's exodus, so to speak, and its entrance into Canaan? Was it right that prophecy should descend from Pisgah, and, veiling the eternal glories that were brightening afar along the edge of the wilderness, shed its strongest light on the fading scenes of the wilderness pilgrimage, in its transitory sufferings and its imperfect joys? Those who expect to find Old Testament scriptures full of present times, etc., who endeavour to extort from its reluctant prophecies a deliverance consonant to their views, cannot but be labouring under the erroneous idea that this gospel age belongs to a dispensation different from that which is to proceed after the Lord's appearing." (Page 422.)}

165 The rest is, I believe, sufficiently noticed; but I would observe, as to the passage in Ephesians, I do not think πλήρωμα τῶν αἰώνων would have any just sense. Αἰῶνες form a series of which we can have a συντέλεια, but not as it seems to me, a πλήρωμα. Whereas, καιροί are seasons or opportunities, time in a moral character of suitableness according to God. There is a time of having all complete according to God, as to administration, and that will, I apprehend, be τὸ πλήρωμα τῶν καιρῶν. We have (Acts 1) the χρόνους and the καιρούς, the suited times which the Father has kept in His own power. If καιρός is taken in the more material meaning of period, the sense is evident, as the accomplishment of a date known to divine wisdom, not of systematic αἰώνων having each a specific character.

But another point struck me in reading the passage. I cannot doubt a moment that the apostle treats it as a thing yet future. We have redemption through His blood, says he, and God has made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He has purposed in Himself for the administration of the fulness of times. We have part in this inheritance, and have the Spirit meanwhile as an earnest until the redemption of the purchased possession to the praise of His glory. Hence he speaks of the hope of His calling, and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. All this language is absolutely demonstrative to my mind that the apostle speaks of the fulness of times as a thing wholly to come.

166 The grand mistake as to reasoning already noticed is, that the existence of the person who is to govern is the epoch of that administration being committed to Him. It is not even the revelation of His person in the state in which it was to be committed to Him; nor were the circumstances such that He could hold it.

I have treated the de jure question in my letter. As to οἰκονομία, administration, it is not a question of de jure, but of exercise of power in the actual ordering of what is administered. No one could have said that the period of Cromwell's power was the administration of Charles II, however royalist he might have been. When did Christ, while living, formally claim the government of the world? Even down here, of heaven He clearly did not while as man in a life of flesh and blood. But all is confusion in the tract between Messiah, Son of man, and Son of God. I have already noticed the comment of Hebrews 2 on Psalm 8; but even the sure mercies of David proved, according to the apostle, the resurrection. (Acts 13.) And instead of claiming the world as His own, Christ repeatedly declared the contrary; and I think we may say in the most positive manner, that He has not asked as yet to have the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. He prays for His elect; but when He takes the world, He will rule the nations with a rod of iron, and break them in pieces like a potter's vessel. And, I repeat, the title of His person is not administration. Nor, though all saved are saved by grace, is ruling with a rod of iron the principles on which God's dealings are now carried on with the world. …

Ever yours affectionately, J. N. D.