THE time is short, and the days are few and evil. A voice has resounded through the world, calling your attention to the fact that the dispensation of the times under which we Gentiles live is fulfilled. Whether it be consummated immediately, or within the lifetime, at most, of the generation now existing, is a question which at present we intend neither to discuss nor determine; but from the events which we see transpiring in relation to the ecclesiastical and secular affairs of men, collated with the things noted in the Scriptures of truth, we are satisficed that the time which remains is brief, and that our eternal well-being demands that we not only believe that he will come, but that we prepare to meet the Lord.
Eighteen centuries have rolled away like a vapour since the banks of the Jordan resounded with the proclamation, "Prepare ye the way of Yahweh, and make his paths straight!" [Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4] This was the voice of the Elijah whose appearance was predicted by Malachi, crying in the wilderness of Judea; whose mission was of God, who sent him to revive the fathers' dispositions in their descendants (Luke 1:17), and to bring back the disobedient to the wisdom of just persons; and thus, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. To carry this into effect, John, the son of Zacharias, commonly called the Baptist, and by the prophets Elijah , because he came in the spirit and power of Elias [Luke 1:17], made his appearance in the fifteenth year of the reign, of Tiberius Caesar. The grand purpose of his mission was " to make ready a people prepared " [Luke 1:17] for the reception of the Lord Messiah at his first coming. This he accomplished by traversing "all the country about Jordan", [Luke 3:3] announcing "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins", in consequence of which multitudes flocked to him from Jerusalem and other cities, "and were all baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins" (Mark 1:4,5).
This is the manner in which that "burning and shining light" [John 5:35] prepared Messiah's way; and made ready "a people" to receive him, giving them the knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins. Now, ponder well, we pray you, this question ; if such a preparation were necessary to make ready a people prepared to receive the Messiah at his first coming, is not a preparation equally demanded by which to make ready a people prepared to receive him at his second appearing? This is our firm conviction, and, believing assuredly that "the day of Christ" [Phil. 1:10; 2:16; 2 Thess. 2:] is at hand, we address you all, without distinction of name, party or denomination, in the words of sacred text:
"Come out of Babylon, my people, That ye be not partakers of her sins, And that ye receive not of her plagues. For the sins have followed her into the heaven, And God hath remembered her iniquities." [Rev. 18:4,5]
Say not to yourselves, we are Protestants, and therefore not in Babylon. Babylon is a system of things made up of every departure from the positive institutions and practices of the New Testament. Original Christianity, which is as pure in the sacred writings as when first delivered to the Jewish nation by the Apostles, recognizes only "one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one Body, one Spirit, one Hope, and one God and Father of all" [Eph. 4:4-6] but if you lift up your eyes, and contemplate the aspect of the ecclesiastical world, you will behold lords many; faiths, or gospels, without number; baptisms seven; as many bodies as there are sects; spirits of all kinds but "the Spirit of Christ" [Rom. 8:9; 1 Pet. 1:11]; and more fears than hopes. The present religious system of "Christendom", in whole or in part, can nowhere be found in the scriptures, except as "the Apostasy", which they declare would arise, and cover the face of the nations as with a veil of "strong delusion". [2 Thess. 2:11] The morality of the social system is vicious, giving countenance to all unrighteousness, viciousness and malice; and judging from what comes out of their mouths, the hearts of all kinds of religionists are full of envy, deceit and malignity; being whisperers, backbiters, slanderers, haters of truly good men, despiteful, proud boasters, volatile, and so forth; being lovers of trifling more than lovers of God. Upon such, His law pronounces death.
This being the obvious condition of the world, is it prepared to receive Messiah? The Scripture says that "the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God". [1 Cor. 6:9] Now when he appears, it is to introduce that kingdom in all its glory; therefore, the "unwashed, unsanctified, and unjustified" will have no share in his dominion, for it is such only whose characters are defined in the Book of Eternal Life, who will partake in the honours of the Age to come.
Do you inquire what you must do, that you may inherit eternal life? That you may be prepared for him at his coming? We answer that the scriptures teach that we must return to first principles; to those institutions which are sanctioned by the apostolic writings. We must obtain "the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins". [Luke 1:77] This is the first step; for having before proved that by practice as well as nature, all are under sentence of death, it behoves us first to be released, from sin, that, in the act of release, we may pass from the sentence of death to that of life. The instant, therefore, that a man obtains remission of his sins, he acquires in that act a right and title to eternal life.
Do you inquire what you must do to obtain this right and title to eternal life in the remission of sins? Permit us to quote a few passages from the New Testament in reply to this question. First, then, it is written in Mark 16:15,16: "He that believeth (the gospel) and is baptized shall be saved" (from his sins); again, in Acts 2:38: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you upon the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins"; verse 41, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized again, in chapter 3:19: "Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out again, chapter 8:12: "When the Samaritans believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women"; again, chapter 8:38: "And Philip and the Ethiopian went down both into the water, and he (Philip) baptized him"; again in chapter 10:43 "To Jesus give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth into him shall receive remission of sins". And Peter said, "Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized?" [Acts 10:47,48] None objecting, "he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord"; [Acts 10:47,48] again, in chapter 13:38,39 "Through this man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses"; again, in chapter 18:8: "Many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptized"; and again, lastly, in chapter 22:16: "Arise, Saul, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord". Why should we darken counsel by appending comments to these simple and emphatic replications; we will only add the reply of Jesus to the young rich man, who demanded of him, "Good master, what good thin shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" [Matt. 19:16,17] Jesus said, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments"; [Matt. 19:16,17] these are contained in the passages we have quoted, and in the "all things" [Matt. 28:20] which Jesus commanded his Apostles to teach those who were baptized in his name.
If you inquire, Is this all that is to be done to acquire a right and title to eternal life? We answer, it is. But you will observe that to obtain a right and title to an estate is not the same thing as to obtain possession of it; a right and title may be acquired, but under certain conditions it may be forfeited. No one can enter the Kingdom of God, or possess life eternal, without first obtaining a right and title; though vast numbers, it is to be feared, who have acquired a right and title, will forfeit them; and consequently never realize any share in the glory and renown of the future age. You will perceive, therefore, that in order to enjoy or possess the things to which we obtain a title by obeying the Gospel, we must also patiently continue in well- doing till the Lord comes, be that event sooner or later; in other words, the interval between believing the Gospel and being baptized, and our departure hence, must be occupied in forming our characters after the model of Jesus; "who is the exact representation of the character of God", and therefore, the very best after which we, can aspire. Character and not opinions will be the test of our admission into the Kingdom of God; let us form, then, such a character as we have delineated in the Lamb's Book of Life -- the New Testament; and be assured, whether our names be repudiated by our contemporaries, or ourselves persecuted to the deprivation of the means of subsistence, we shall be invested with incorruptible life, and crowned with glory and honour in the future age.
The character we are required to form that we may realize the "one hope of our calling" [Eph. 4:4] must be inspirited by the truth; that is, the law of the Lord must dwell in us, with the courageous determination to obey it, or live in conformity to it, and to contend earnestly for it, at all hazards. God must be in all our thoughts; and our actions must be shaped with a view to His approbation alone. How will this or that be approved by our Father in Heaven, and not what will the people or their leaders say, should be the only question permitted to stand up between our conceptions and the practice of them, In short, "the grace of God that bringeth salvation" [Titus 2:1] teaches us that "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the present world; looking for that blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works"; [Titus 2:12-14] it charges "them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on Eternal Life". [1 Tim. 6:17-19] Such are the things which constitute the character of the man whose religion is pure and undefiled, and who will be accepted when the Day Star shall illume the world.
When the ancients had obeyed the Gospel, they did not insulate themselves; on the contrary, attracted to a common center by the love of the truth, they associated themselves together into communities, that they might continue in the things enjoined upon them by the Apostles. They met together every first day of the week, termed the Lord's day, because he rose from the dead upon that day. Being assembled, they sang his praise, celebrated his death, supplicated his favour, exhorted one another to love good works, and a patient continuance in well-doing; they searched the Scripture, and in proportion to the strength of their affection for the common truth, so they were knit and compacted together in the bonds of love and brotherhood in Christ. Their hope was one. They earnestly desired the appearing of Jesus Christ, because they expected then to be raised from the dead; or, if at his coming, to be transformed into the similitude of his glory. Their love was perfect; and they loved one another in the ratio of their love to God, who first loved them; there was no fear in their love, "for perfect love casteth out fear"; (1 John 4:18) and, unlike the worldly minded and false-hearted religionists of this Laodicean age, as they conceived in their hearts, so with their tongues did they the truth express. In those days of primitive simplicity in the faith, they did not worship God by a proxy, whom they hired at so much per annum to preach the traditions of men; nor did they masquerade, or "trip it on the light fantastic toe", like an opera danseuse ; but they walked as becometh saints, ennobled by the truth, and destined for the good society of the Messiah's age.
In the Scripture of truth God has set out our destiny before us in the most intelligible terms. He pronounces us sinners by nature and practice ; and because sinners, corruptible and mortal "in body, soul and spirit, the whole person"; as it is written, the wages of sin is death . [Rom. 6:23] This life is probationary. We are placed here to prove ourselves worthy of the destiny we may choose. "The gracious gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ the Lord." [Rom. 6:23] Which will you? Life and Death are set before you; will you strike for freedom from the law of sin; or choose ye rather to fret out the "few and evil days" [Gen. 47:9] which may remain to you as the bondslaves of this perishing state and "die accursed"? God invites you to reconciliation; "Come unto me", says Jesus, "all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest". [Matt. 11:28] Have you no ambition beyond the mean and grovelling aspirations of this animal life? Are the glories of personal decoration with silks and velvets, and gold, and precious stones, the choicest brilliants after which you sigh? Is the honour which comes from vain and foolish man, corruptible and defiled in all his parts, your highest aspiration? Is the immortality of fame with future generations the most renowned for which you long? Fellow mortals! Of what value are baubles such as these to tenants of the tomb? Are the particles of dust which once rejoiced in the glory and renown of a Nebuchadnezzar, a Cyrus, an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon, more happy or estimable than those of a Lazarus? All these things perished in the using, and now are equally valueless to all, both of high and low degree.
Being destitute of all true riches and good things by nature, our benevolent Creator has offered us "glory, honour, incorruptibility, and eternal life", [Rom. 2:7] with an "inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that shall never fade away". [1 Pet. 1:4] He invites us in the Gospel to become heirs of these things; and, by our future conduct, to prove ourselves worthy to possess them. Would you not be arrayed in splendour which will excel the glory of the Sun? Would you not be exalted to the dignity of associate kings with the glorious monarch of the Future Age? Would you not be invested with an incorruptible life, that you may eternally enjoy "the inheritance in the light" [Col. 1:12] which is to be revealed at the appearing of the "bright and morning star"? [Rev. 22:16] Let, then, the dispositions of the ancient Christians be revived in us, their descendants; and let us forsake our disobedience, and, return to the wisdom of just persons; and thus the Truth will make of us "a people prepared for the Lord". [Luke 1:17]
Forget the things which are behind, and press forward to the things which are before. Though you may belong to the straitest sect of popular religion, and in all good fame with its officials, "come out from it" [Rev, 18:4] and obey the Gospel for remission of sins, and a right to the promised kingdom. Romanism and Protestantism are forms only of "the Apostasy" from original Christianity. There is but one true and genuine religion; all others are counterfeits. You can only be "accounted worthy" [Luke 20:35;21:36] to attain to the resurrection of the just by a right and title derived from that religion. The Old and New Testaments are the only documents in which it is found pure and undefiled by the traditions of men. If you would become Mohammedans, you must study the Koran, that you might learn in what Mohammedanism consisted; even so, if you would become Christians, you must study the religion of the Christian Scriptures in these oracles, which alone contain it. The motive, then, presented to you, by which you may be induced to "count all things but loss", [Phil. 3:8] is the excellency of the things to be brought to you at the coming of the Lord. If you invest yourselves with the wedding garment, in the way the scriptures direct, and we have endeavoured to point it out in this well-intentioned address, you will be honoured to "sit down with Abraham", [Matt. 8:11] the Prophets, Jesus and his Apostles, "in the Kingdom of God"; but if the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches should unhappily lead you to put away these things from you and to "judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life", [Acts 13:46] there is but one thing for you; as it is written, "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire; taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired by all them that believe" [2 Thess. 1:7-10] But that it may be your part to eschew the evil coming upon the world, and to lay hold on the hope set before you in the gospel, is the sincere and humble prayer of yours, in all philanthropy and benevolence,