Heaven must take Him in until the time comes for the restoration of all things, which God announced long ago through His holy prophets.
I. THE NATURE OF TRUE CONVERSION.
1. Spiritual change. Not a mere ritualistic sensation, or educational development of the character, but being "born again." Repentance, change of mind, on the ground of facts acknowledged and promises received. The announcement of the gift of God prepared the way for the call to repentance. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, therefore repent; pass through the gate into life.
2. Man's co-operation with God. "Repent and turn again" (Revised Version), "that your sins may be blotted out," etc. No amount of feeling is conversion; no enlightenment of the mind, or even devoutness of spirit, supersedes the change of life. The sins are blotted out by the blood of Christ as guilt, their burden is removed from the conscience, the heart, and the life, when repentance and faith introduce the sinner into the state of grace. What the apostle appealed for was a real coming out of the old state into the new. We must not be satisfied with mere religiousness, instead of decided confession of Christ before men. Direct the Word to the individual: "Repent ye. The participation of privilege as children of Abraham, as members of the favored nation, no release from the obligation to repent. The Church itself needs revival and change.
1. The great fact. Conversion is a reality, already seen. The Spirit of God is already poured out. The beginning of the new life is before our eyes. Others are changed, why not ye? Distinguish between the right and wrong use of such a fact. No necessity to wait for great revivals. Danger of expecting excitement to do God's work for us. The actual existence of a living, working Church of Christ in our neighborhood is the great call to us.
2. The offered blessedness - the blotting out of sins. Sense of pardon the spring of the new life. The function of thankfulness in practical Christianity. The impossibility of progress without a sense of liberty. Hence the defective Christianity of our Churches. No sense of victory over sin.
3. The promised future. Seasons of refreshing." Return of Jesus Christ. Restitution of all things. The key-note of revelation. The golden horizon of the world. Power of hope in awakening energy. "Pilgrim's progress" is towards "the celestial city." Turn your face from the city of Destruction to the city of God. The call to repentance should never be a mere denunciatory cry against sin, a mere pointing to the overhanging Mount Sinai, which gendereth bondage; but as the loving invitation to rejoice in the "presence of the Lord," from which the blessing is ready to come forth. Address men not as far off, but as nigh - within the temple courts, under the outspread wings. - R.
Whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things.2 Peter 3:13. It, does not necessarily imply, as some have thought, the final salvation of all men, but it does express the idea of a state in which "righteousness," and not "sin," shall have dominion over a redeemed and new-created world. The corresponding verb is found in the words, "Elias truly shall come first, and restore all things " (Matthew 17:11); and St. Peter's words may well be looked on as an echo of that teaching, and so as an undesigned coincidence testifying to the truth of St. Matthew's record.
(Dean Plumptre.)1. Restitution means the setting up again of that which has been thrown down. When a fallen pillar is restored to its position; or a plant, blown down, or crushed, regains its upright attitude; when a building, overthrown, is rebuilt — there is a restitution.
2. In the universe there has been a great overturning. The course of history seems to be a succession of failures — God setting up, some other power casting down. And, apart from revelation we could not tell what the end of all things would be. In the Word of God we have the assurance of a restitution — a setting up again of all things — a restoration out of the old, but higher than the old — the same and yet different. "The city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof."
I. THE RESTITUTION OF NATURE. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth — garnished with wisdom; blessed with love; and, surveying the whole, He pronounced it very good. But through the introduction of evil, a curse soon fell upon creation, and the earth underwent some change, in respect of its beauty and fertility. The world is regarded as full of beauty, notwithstanding its barren deserts, etc.; but had sin never entered, it would have been a scene of order and peace far surpassing our conception. The Cosmos we behold bears traces everywhere of great convulsions; and in this respect nature has been called "a born ruin." There are revolutionary forces which, if let loose, would rend creation asunder. Meantime these forces check each other; only occasionally are we reminded of their power by a quaking of the earth, or a peal of thunder. But the day is coming when these forces will overleap their present bounds, and involve universal nature in a catastrophe. The two agents appointed by God to work great physical and moral revolutions are water and fire. God has already employed water to change the face of the earth, and the current of history. The other agent to be employed in the destruction of the world is fire (2 Peter 3:10-14). Part, then, of the restitution of all things consists in the restitution of nature. In the beginning of revelation we see God's first work set up, but soon thrown down, or marred. In the end we read of its being set up again in higher form: "I saw a new heaven and a new earth," etc. The first creation was cursed, but in the second creation "there shall-be no more curse." The first creation has thorns and thistles, but with regard to the second, "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree," etc. The restitution will be not merely a return to primeval beauty, but the introduction of a far higher beauty. For then "the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun," etc. Involved in the restitution of nature is the restitution of Paradise, "The Lord God planted a garden," etc. In this there was a perfect combination of the useful and the beautiful. It had trees "pleasant to the sight and good for food." A river, also, went out of Eden to water the garden. And so in the midst of Paradise restored there is "the tree of life, with twelve manner of fruits," etc., and "a pure river of water of life," etc.
II. THE RESTITUTION OF MAN. This is intimately connected with the restitution of nature, as Paul shows in Romans 8:1. Look at man in his first estate. He was made in the image of God in nature and will. He possessed the glorious but perilous gift of liberty. And how did he demonstrate his freedom? Not as God had done in the production of good, but as Satan had done in the production of evil. He showed himself to be free by an act that destroyed his freedom. He was a broken creature, smitten with death. Being spiritually dead, temporal and eternal death was the necessary result. Besides, when man lost the image of God, he lost the sovereignty of nature, and having this dominion, he must have had powers vastly greater than those which remained with him after the fall. But man, the broken image of God, is to be restored. Man, the dethroned and prostrate monarch of nature, is to be reinstated in his sovereignty. This restitution begins in time, as a renewal of the spirit. At the resurrection the body is set up again in a far higher form, like the glorified body of the Redeemer. Then, too, the image of God being perfectly restored, man will enter on his true sovereignty again. The believer will be made a king and a priest to God.
2. All this was seen to be accomplished in Christ, as the representative man. He took up the work at the point of ruin to which man had brought it, and from that regained all that man had lost. He magnified the law which man had despised; and fulfilled all righteousness. He encountered the tempter, and defeated him. The first temptation took place in a garden, and the result was that man was driven into the wilderness. Jesus resumes the conflict in the wilderness in order to restore the garden. He Himself is the image of God, and shows that He is in possession of the lost sovereignty over nature. When He was in the wilderness it is recorded that He was with the wild beasts, who lost their ferocity and rebellion in His presence. In this we have a passing glimpse of man's returning dominion over the lower creation; of the time when "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb," etc.; just as His miracles, manifesting His power over inanimate nature and the body of man, were a prophetic fulfilment of the great aspiration and effort of the human mind to regain the mastery of nature.
III. THE RESTITUTION OF SOCIETY. We find much reformation wanted here. Next to the great question — How shall man be just with God? — is the question, On what terms shall he live with his fellow-men? It is the problem of government. Next to the salvation of the individual is the construction of society. The disturbing element in humanity does not lie primarily in forms of government, but in the individual soul; and, therefore, all attempts to regenerate man from without, by ameliorating his circumstances merely, or placing him under a new political arrangement, have failed; for the root of all rebellion is the unrenewed heart. For a machine to work perfectly — even supposing the machine itself to be perfect — there are required honest and competent men to work it; and, therefore, Christianity begins with the individual, and regenerates society from that point.
1. The first form of society is that of the family. Here we have the nursery of all other forms. If families are godless the Church cannot be prosperous. If they are immoral the city cannot be safe. If they are dis-organised the State cannot be strong. But what a dark tragedy broke up the first society of this kind! As we come down the stream of sacred history, we see that God always sets up His work again in the midst of some particular family. In the family of Noah the race makes a new start. In the families of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a new covenant of grace is established. In the family of David the kingdom of the Jews is confirmed. In the house at Nazareth the foundation of Christendom is laid. But existing families are ever being broken up and dispersed. The institution itself, however, is a Divine idea that cannot perish, and in the restitution of all things the family reappears. God is revealed as the Father of Christ, "of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named."
2. Next to the family is the city. Cain, who destroyed the first family, was the founder of the first city; an acknowledgment that man was no longer at home with nature; a city being a fortified place, surrounded by walls, to keep out intruders. Now, what man founded, God has adopted. After His people had wandered in the wilderness He led them to the promised land, and there built that famous capital of the old theocracy, Jerusalem. It was called the City of God, the Holy City. But it was ultimately visited by a terrible overthrow. "But the city shall be built on her own heap." In the restitution of all things a new Jerusalem rises into view, "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Christ has gone to the unseen world to prepare many mansions for His people; and in the revelation given to John there are glimpses of "That great city, the holy Jerusalem."
3. Next to the city is the empire, or union of cities and states. Very early the idea of universal empire took possession of the human mind, and in the immense tower erected on the plain of Shinar we have the first embodiment of that idea. In the very attempt to make such a huge confederation they were more divided than before. Their impious attempt brought down upon them a judgment that revealed their real but originally-hidden incongruities. Thus the first Babel prophesied the fate and gave its very name to subsequent systems, political and religious, which have attempted the impossible task of founding a universal empire, or Church on a false and godless principle. In itself, however, the idea of a universal empire is not false but true. The true tendency of the world is to reach a confederation of men, or parliament of the world, notwithstanding national differences. The discoveries of science and the reciprocities of commerce are aiming, consciously or unconsciously, at this stupendous result; which, however, they cannot gain by themselves. The highest end of science and commerce is to herald the kingdom of Christ, which carries in its bosom the highest law — the law of God, and the charter of universal freedom. The idea of the Church is that of a universal brotherhood under the fatherhood of God; and the realisation of this is the splendid goal of humanity. Christ is King of kings and the Lord of lords, and everywhere it is foretold that His kingdom will be universal and eternal.
(F. Ferguson, D. D.)I. "The restitution of all things" will be A CLEARING AWAY OF SUFFERING. This is the special point of that mysterious passage in Romans 8. in which Paul speaks of the "earnest expectation of the creature." We see "the creature," rational and irrational, "subjected to vanity"; to a condition of anxiety and toil, unrest, disease, death; "not willingly" — by no act or choice of its own — generation inheriting from generation its heirloom and entail of distress; and this, St. Paul adds, by the fiat of One who laid it under this subjection — we suppose him to mean, as the penalty of sin; yet that sin is not its own, that penalty not removable by present obedience, but having to be endured, to the bitter end, even by the innocent. The thought pressed upon the apostle, as it presses upon us. And he has one and but one escape from "charging God foolishly." He adds, with an emphasis which no power of voice and no skill of enunciation can satisfy, the two brief words, "in hope"; and goes on to explain that even before this distressed and disconsolate creature there lies a future of emancipation. Then shall it "remember no more the anguish," in the joy of a delivery and the transport of a new life. We would detain the apostle and interrogate him concerning these dark sayings. We would ask, Is it of earth as the scene of a future, an everlasting inhabitation; is it of a race of nature, to be cleared of sterility and unfruitfulness; is it of irrational creatures, by man requited too often with neglect or cruelty, that the words are written, "The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the unveiling of the sons of God"? Or does "restitution" mean that nations, ignorant of Christ, destitute of the gospel, shall then, in some wonderful manner, "walk in the light of it"? But there is no voice nor any to answer us in these perhaps presumptuous questionings. Thou hast Moses and the prophets, Christ and the apostles — hear them. Soon shalt thou, faithful unto death, be reading these mysteries right in the very sunshine of the smile of God. Meanwhile, "what is that to thee?" Christ says, "follow thou Me." Earth shall be restored to its original beauty; its face shall be wiped from tears, its scarred and seamed countenance shall be radiant again with a more than Eden loveliness: for it is one of those "all things" which must receive "restitution" when the heaven which has "received" Him shall send Jesus back.
II. MAN, HIS SOUL AND BODY, HIS VERY BEING AND LIFE, is among these "all things" which are awaiting a restoration. Set before the mind's eye the character which you most admire, the person whom you best love — can anything but blind idolatry paint even him to you as perfect? But supposing that the very qualities which you love in their imperfection were but intensified and glorified; that the only change were in the refining away of the dross and alloy of the thing loved, would not the perfecting be a gain unmingled, the "restoration" a joy unspeakable and full of glory? And if it has happened to any one to behold the gradual overclouding of magnificent faculties — the growth of small imperfections, till the result was almost the unloveliness of the lovely; if it has been yours to stand finally by the grave, and bury out of your sight, a face and a form once all but Divine to you, surely you have felt then that the one solace for the loving must be the thought of the restoration, in soul and body, of the loved. But if this be true in cases of exceptional loveliness, how shall it be in the average experiences of human character and attainment? Where is the man not soiled and spoilt by imperfections? What shall we say of faults and blemishes, of follies and meannesses, of failures and irresolutions and broken vows, as we are conscious of them within? Who that has seriously tried the struggle to be holy has not found himself vexed and irritated, if not reduced to despair, by perpetual failure? But if it be so, that I, this faulty man, ever failing, halting, vanquished — seeming to make no way in the race of duty, and purity, and eternal life — shall yet certainly, if I continue to fight, be more than conqueror when I die; shall be clean, sanctified wholly, filled with peace and love, made anew in more than all the thoroughness of the first perfection, when God looked upon all the work of His hands and beheld it "very good"; then I will arise, if need be, from a thousand falls in one day, "cast down but not destroyed," to say, "Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy, for greater is He that is for me than all that can be against me."
III. That "restitution of all things" which thus affects earth and the man has AN ASPECT TOWARDS GOD. If there be one thing clear in the Scripture narrative, it is the nearness of God to the as yet sinless Adam. The hiding from God, the expulsion from Paradise, the subsequent approach through sacrifice, the first "calling upon the name of the Lord," which is mentioned as a feature of the exile — are all so many hints of a change in the facility, the nearness, and the constancy of access to God. The whole history of the race, the whole experience of the life, has been the commentary upon this parable. The sinner has been in hiding from the face of God. Calling upon Him has been an effort. Sin has made it so. Now it is one of the express revelations of "the times of refreshing," that then the conscious presence, the spiritual Sheehinah, the Divine companionship, will be restored. "I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God," etc. The greatest of the restitutions will be the restoration of God's presence. In the prospect of admission into the very presence of God, let us be willing to endure now the difficulty of the pursuit and the delay of the attainment. Every moment now spent in seeking God is an earnest of the time when we shall have found.
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