I find myself here reproducing an entire chapter of awesomeness. Brown totally decimates a very common premill argument. Bravo.
Chapter VI. (pages 367 through 373)
The Way of Salvation No Less Narrow During the Millennium Than Now.
Very loose is the language indulged in upon this point,&mdashlanguage which, though repudiated by some, is nevertheless the prevailing strain in the contrasts which are drawn between the present and the expected millennial dispensation.
“Concerning the number of true believers under this dispensation,” say Dr. M’Neile, “we read, ‘Many are called, but few are chosen. Enter ye in at the strait gait, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate and narrow is way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in they name; and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.’ Concering the character of true believers, we read, ‘Love not the world, neither the things of the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. The friendship of the world is enmity with God; whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God. Therefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.’ These passages of Scripture avowedly belong to this dispensation. They have applied in every age, and do still apply to the true disciples of the Lord Jesus: But if the world become Christian, the world will no longer persecute Christians. If all the families of the earth be blessed with eternal life, the way of life will be no longer narrow. If the world become Christian, then Christians cannot separate from the world.. It is obvious, that in the passage from our present state to a state of universal holiness, these characteristic saying of the New Testament must cease to have any application, and become obsolete, not to say false.”
The least consideration,” says Mr. Maitland, in the note already quoted, “will serve to show that the New Testament supposed a suffering< ./em> kingdom, and that its encouragements, exhortations, warnings, were addressed to a people conflicting with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The Master, as he delivered it, said, ‘I am come to send fire on earth, not peace, but a sword;’ and this supposition is the whole revelation founded. Now, if we turn to the promises of God concerning the state of the world, after his ancient people shall have been brought in and made the light of the nations (as given in Isa. xi., xxv., lx., and elsewhere), and carry the exhortation and warnings of our dispensation to a people conditioned as they shall be, we shall at once see how ill adapted they would be to their times and circumstances. Christ says to his Gospel-church in every line, if not in word yet in spirit, ’Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation: Behold I come as a thief—a snare: be ye therefore like servants which wait for their Lord.’ Take this thought with you to the sixtieth of Isaiah, and mark the incongruity. If such precepts as these are still needed, the condition there described could not exist. Holy fear and jealousy, from the surrounding dangers, would effectually check the tide which we see flowing there. Their condition is evidently one not militant but triumphant.”
When,” says Mr. Wood,, “the nations say, ‘Come and let us go up to the house of the Lord,’ shall it be true, then, that ‘strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it?”
“Surely,” says Mr. Brooks, “the kingdom will be already come, when all the kingdoms of this world shall have become the kindom of our Lord and and of his Christ. With what propriety, then, could men any longer be exhorted to ’seek’ and to ‘lay up treasure,’ and ‘hope for’ that which they will already be in possession of!”
The confusion of thought which all thse passages manifest, is such as can only be accounted for by the difficulty of defining a state which is made up of the most ikncongruous elements. Let us try to bring order out of it.
1. When the world ceases to persecute Christians, it will only be that on a great scale, which on a small one has seen hundreds of times in the past history of the Chrch, and, on a scale smaller still, occurs in the domestic circle every day. “The had the churches rest,” says the historian of the Acts, after Saul of Tarsus had been transformed out of a bloody persecutor into a glowing Christian, and “walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multipled.” (Acts ix. 31.) such rest, and such blessed consequences of it, have been more or less experienced in the Church from age to age since that time. And what will the millennium be, in one blessed feature of it, but this same rest,and these same consequences of it, over the whole earth? But what in this case, it will be said, becomes of such passages as these, “In the world ye shall have tribulation;” “I am not come to send peace on earth,but a sword;” “The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father”? Why, just what becomes of them when “one of a fami8ly,” after having been the object of incessant and virulent opposition from an ungodly housuehold, is blessed to the faining of every one of them—when “those who spake against him as an evil-doer, do,by his good works which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Of course the father is not now “divided against the son.” they are “all of one mind; they live in peace, and the God of love and peace is with them.” There is manifestly no difference at all between this case and that which we expect during the millennium over the whole earth. The extent is nothing. The principle is the only thikng of consequence, and who does not see that that is the same in both cases? Yet they build out of this an argument for a new dispensation! As well might one say, that the change which came over the Church when Constantine extended to it the protection of the empire, was a new dispensation. (Comapre Isa. xi. 9; ii. 3, 4; xxxii. 15﹣18.)
2. The argument for an entirely new state of things during the millennium, from the words, “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it,” while it resembles the former one in shallowness, grates more upon the ear, and is more vicious in its tendency. It proceeds on a misapprehension of the real point of our Lord’s statement, and unduly magnifies what is the least important part of it. What makes “the narrow way” to narrow, is not that “few find it,” but it is because of it narrowness that it is found by few. It is not because “many there be that go in thereat,” that the way they take is called “the broad way,” but it is because of its breadth that so many frequent it. The one way means just the course which pleases the flesh, is congenial to the carnal taste of eery natural man, and consists in following the bent of corrupt nature; therefore it is called broad—easily trodden, as its “gate” is said to be wide—easily got in at. The other way means just the opposite of this—resistence to all the desires of the natural man, the mortification of the flesh, obedience to the promptings of the opposite principle—the new, spiritual, heaven-born natrue. If this be correct, it follows, not only that men during the millennium, just as much as now, willo naturally prefer the “broad” to the “narrow” ay, if they be born in sin as we are, but that, left to themselves, every one in all time will walk in the former, and none at all in the latter; that the wonder is, not that “few,” but that any find it, and that these few fine it purely in virtue of a supernatural principle, emancipating them from the “earthly, sensual, devilish” desires to which, in common with all other men, they are naturally in bondage. Now, as this is the secret of any man’s finding the narrow way, so is it the secret of every man’s finding it who is ever conducted to “life” upon it. What, then, is the difference between the present and the millennial state, in respect of this way? Just the difference between grace plucking more brands out of the fire than now—between a less and a greater number of converted and holy persons:—that is all.
Will it be said, The way will no longer be narrow, when, instead of few, many find it? That, as I have said, is to make its narrowness to arise from its unfrequentness. And by so saying, you do something far worse than make the cause the effect, and the effect the cause; you put the real narrowness of the one way and breadth of the other out of sigh altogether, and represent the millennial state as on in which men will not find the way of life to be what it is to us—a state in in which they will not have to struggle against the corrupt tendencies of the natural man—a state in which the corruption of nature either will not exist at all, o r will not have those characteristics which make it what it is, and which have been always the same since the fall. If this is not what you mean, your argument is inept, and your language fitted only to deceive.
But surely it will not then be said, “Few there be that find it,” and if not, will not this statement be then inapplicable? The answer, if answer the question needs or merits, has been furnished already. “The father is” no longer “divided against the son,” when the father joins the son in the bonds of the gospel. When the sword of persecution is sheathed in any land, the Saviour’s words, “I am not come to send peace on earth, but a sword,” before realized there, cease of course to be descriptive of the actual state of things in that land. In these and similar statements of Scripture, it is the principle of eternal hostirily between him that is born after the flesh and him that is born after the Spirit which is to be seized upon. In this originates all the actual opposition to the cause of Christ and the members of his body which is displayed. It varies, of course, in the forms which it takes, in the places where it occurs, and in the extent to which it is permitted to go: sometimes the worse triumphs over the better, and puts it down; at other times it is the reverse; and the time is coming when those that are born after the flesh shall be the tail and not the head, all the world over. But who would ever spreak of such statements as the above being superseded, either now—wherever true religion triumphs, in families, cities, or countries—or hereafter over the whole earth? So with the “few” that now find the narrow way, compared with what will be witnessed during the millennium. As the way will be the same then—and narrow then in the same sense and for precisley the same reasons as now—so it will be nothing else than grace triumphing then over nature in more person, and to a greater extent, than now.
3. “If the world, says Dr. M’Neile, “become Christian, then Christians cannot separate from the world.” Is it possible that such a fallacy shoudl stumble any one acquainted with Scripture language? What definition of “the world” from which Christians are commanded to separate, is given in the very passage which he quotes? “Love not the world,” says the beloved disciple, “neither the things that are in the world. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” Will none of these exist during the millennium, or require to be separated from? Take riches—one of “the things (now) in the world,” and the love of which must be in this passage forbidden, seeing it is said to be “the root of all evil.” Will this not be “in the world” during the millennium? or will money be anything else than than what it is now, or will the “love of money” be more lawful? “The lust of the flesh”—will that be extinct during the millennium, or may it be then cherished? “The lust of the eye”—will that also be gone? And “The pride of life?” Or will they be any thing else then than now? The question, it will be observed, is not, Will men then rise superior to those things? but, Will they have them to resist? Dr. M’Neile’s argument, if good for any thing, is this, that men during the millennium will not need to be warned against the love of the world—not becuase they will have so much of the Spirit that hte world will make no impression upon them, though even that were no reason why they should never be warned—but because there will then be no world to love, no lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and pride of life, to require warnings against. And when we have got this length we are still not far enough; for unless it will then be lawful to “love” the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever, since the “creature” will exist during the millennium, and be quite as attractive, I should suppose, as ever it has been since the fall, there will be the very same reason then as now for the apostle’s counsel, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”
The reader will now know what to gether from Mr. Brooks’ question, “With what propriety could men any longer be exhorted to ’seek’ and to ‘lay up treasure,’ and to ‘hope for’ that which they will be in possession of?” As this is spoken of the millennial condition of mortal men, it either means that they will, in the state of mortality, be in possession of heaven, and heaven’s treasures, so as no longer to need hoping for them, as poor mortal men now have, who, with all “the frist-fruits of the Spirit” they enjoy, are dorced to “groan within themselves, waiting” for a very different state;—or else it has no meaning. I am inclined to think, that neither solution is perfectly correct. All the meaning which the statement has, is to the effect just expressed; but as I feel persuaded the author does not and cannot go that length, the rest must be set down to the nature of the expectation actually entertained, which in vain will any one attempt intelligibly to express.
In fine, the millennial state, according to the foregoing representations of it, will not be our Christianity at all. It has none of the characteristics of a state of grace; or, if this should be protested against as an unfair inference from their statements, let them give up contrasting the present with what they call the millennial dispensation. As well, I preat, may the term the change from teh persecuted to the peaceful state of the Church before and after Constantine, a change of dispensation; as well may they call the change from the Bloody Mary to Elizabeth of England, and similar changes in Scotland, and all the other kingdoms of Protestant Christendom, new dispensations. True, the change will be vastly more extensive, permanent, and glorious, tha tis to characterize the millennial period. But will there be one element in it that has not already been realized, and is not from time to time witnessed, on a smaller scale? Not one. when “the sovereignty of the world has become our Lord’s and his Christ’s” (Rev. xi. 15); when the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom, under the whole heaven, is given to the people of the sains of the Most High; when Christ’s dominion is from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth; when men are blessed in him, and all nations call him blessed; when they have beaten their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks—nation not lifting up sword agaiknst nation, and none learning war any more:—then, of course, all the earth will be at rest and be still, save in the unwearied activities of welld oing. But even then, as the flesh will lust against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, so salvation in every case will then be as much a triumph of grace over nature as now.