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THE PAROUSIA IN THE EPISTLE OF JAMES.
There is a special interest attached to this epistle inasmuch as it manifestly belongs to the ‘last days,’ the closing period of the dispensation. It is a voice to the scattered Israel of God from within the doomed city whose catastrophe was now at hand. It is the last testimony of a faithful witness to the nation both within and without the bounds of Palestine. Though addressed to believing Hebrews, it contains evidences of the degeneracy in the Christian church and the extreme corruption of the nation. Iniquity abounds, and the love of many has waxed cold. But James of Jerusalem, like one of the old prophets of Israel, bears his testimony for truth and righteousness with unfaltering fidelity, till he wins the crown of martyrdom. The direct allusions to the Parousia in this epistle are few in number, but distinct and decisive in character; and it is plain that the whole epistle is written under the deep impression of the approaching consummation.THE LAST DAYS COME.
This bold denunciation of the powerful oppressors and robbers of the poor in the last days of the Jewish State recalls to our minds the warnings of the prophet Malachi: ‘I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless; and them that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts’ (Mal. iii. 5). That judgment was now drawing nigh, and ‘the judge was at the door.’
Nothing can be more frank than the recognition which Alford give of the historical significance of this commination, and its express reference to the times of the apostle. Accounting for the absence of any direct exhortation to penitence in this denunciation, he says,---
The only drawback to this explanation is the unfortunate ‘may be’ in the last sentence. How could a peradventure be thought of in a case so plain? Our concern is with what was in the mind of the apostle, and surely no words can convey a stronger testimony to his conviction that ‘the last days’ and ‘the end’ were all but come.
In his note on ver. 3, Alford gives the apostle’s meaning with perfect accuracy:---
It is interesting to find Dr. Manton, a theologian who lived in days when rigorous exegesis was not much practised and Scripture exposition was whatever Scripture might be made to mean, has with great perspicacity discerned the historical significance of this and other allusions of St. James to the Parousia. For example, on the clause, ‘The rust of them shall eat your flesh as it were fire,’ Monton says,---
Three distinct utterances, short, sharp, startling, all significant of the imminent arrival of ‘the day of the Lord.’
Manton’s comment on these passages, though he is haunted by the phantom of the double sense, is, on the whole, excellent:---
He then goes on to give an alternative meaning, according to the usage of double-sense expositors.
On the eighth verse, ‘For the coming of the Lord draweth nigh,’ Manton observes:---
On ver. 9, ‘Behold, the judge standeth before the door,’ Manton entirely discards the double sense, and gives the following unexceptionable explanation:---
It is easy to see that the pardonable anxiety to find a present didactic and edifying use in all Scripture lies at the foundation of much of the exposition of such divines as Manton, and inclines them to adopt alternative meanings and accommodations, which a strict exegesis cannot admit. But the language of the apostle in this instance stands in need of no elucidation, it speaks for itself. It shows the attitude of expectation and hope in which the apostolic churches waited for the manifestation of their returning Lord. A persecuted church had need of patience under the wrongs inflicted by their oppressors. Their cry was, ‘O Lord, how long?’ They were comforted by the assurance that the day of deliverance was at hand; ‘the judge,’ the avenger of their wrongs was already ‘at the door;’ ‘Yet a very, very little while, and he who is coming shall come, and shall not tarry.’ How is it possible to reconcile this confident expectation of almost immediate deliverance with a consummation still future after eighteen centuries have passed away? There are but two alternatives possible: either St. James and his fellow-apostles were grossly deceived in their expectation of the Parousia, or that event did come to pass, according to their expectation and the Lord’s prediction, at the close of the aeon, or Jewish age. If we adopt the latter alternative, the only one compatible with Christian faith, we must accept the inference that the Parousia was the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ to abolish the Mosaic dispensation, execute judgment on the guilty nation, and receive His faithful people into His heavenly kingdom and glory.
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