A Sermon Delivered by DAVID B. UPDEGRAFF
Updegraff, David B. Old Corn; Or, Sermons and Addresses on The Spiritual Life. Boston: The McDonald & Gill Co., 1892, pages 269-277.

This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 3: The 19th Century.

"But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."--Matt. 24:37.

We shall assume that all are agreed that Christ will indeed "appear the second time without sin unto salvation unto them that look for him," that "this same Jesus shall so come in tike manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."

Not only so we are agreed that there is to come a time of universal blessedness on the earth. This period called the millennium is so clearly foretold and so certainly expected by all that are truly taught of God that it needs no discussion here. But what is the order of these two events? Which is to come first? Is the coming of the Lord before the millennium, i.e., at the introduction of this period? Or are we to look for the millennium first, before our Lord's personal return? This is the question to which our attention is invited. As to the historic and credal attitude of the church in the past, we shall leave that for others to examine, and direct our investigation to the testimony of Scripture on the point in question.

For myself, there is not the slightest question that the return Of the Lord Jesus for His saints will be before the thousand years of millennial reign, and not afterwards.

(1.) What did Christ teach His disciples and ail future preachers to expect as the result of their ministry and mission? Were they to expect such a progress in the spread of vital Christianity that it would gradually obtain complete ascendency in the world? Were the apostles taught that the churches they were founding would by their various agencies so diffuse the gospel, that at no distant day, or in any other day, the population of the earth would become a really Christian population? If our Lord did teach this, then it is not optimistic to believe it, and really expect the day when "the world's salvation by the present system of agencies" will be an accomplished fact, and reposing in the midst of millennial glories we may await the coming of our Lord. But if this hope of success has indeed been the heritage of the church in all the past, may we not ask for an explanation of the appalling fact, that though nearly nineteen centuries have passed since Jesus commissioned His disciples to "Go, preach the gospel to every creature," there are certainly less than 20,000,000 of experimental Christians in the world of today, which contains a population of at least 1,400,000,000, and which has an annual increase of about 14,000,000? Now it may .be answered that the desired results have been hindered by the unfaithfulness of the church, and the power of "the god of this world to blind the minds" of men. That even "the truth of God has been changed into a lie," and that from the very beginning "the mystery of inquiry" hath wrought in "the children of disobedience." To all of which we heart/ly give assent. But what of the future? Are these opposing elements expected to lose any of their subtlety or virulence, and have we reason to suppose that a more propitious era, in this respect, dawns upon us than that which broke upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost? Is "the preaching of the gospel, accompanied by the Holy Spirit," to be more effective in our hands than in theirs, and fully adequate to these anticipated achievements? Is there either any human probability or divine revelation that there is to be realized in our future any universal triumph of the gospel before the coming of the Lord? We think our readers must concur with us when we answer such questions with a decided negative. When we assert that the hindrances to the gospel in the past are not peculiar to the ages and people of the past, but are as permanent and enduring as the aeon, and as universal and invariable as fallen human nature itself. Not only so: "In the last days perilous times shall come." Perilous even to God's children, because of a subtle mixture of truth and error, because of the delusive power of "a form of godliness," and a sensual religion which is often only a cloak for infidelity and vice. And still worse, the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall "depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils," etc. And this prevalence of corruption, even in the church itself, is most clearly taught by Christ, and is recognized or emphasized with warnings by all of the apostolic writers. This one fact is enough to exclude at once and forever every Utopian expectation that the gospel will one day meet with universal acceptance by the world.

(2.) Let us glance at the parable of the tares (Matt. 13: 24). Here is "an enemy" successfully introducing false professors among true believers. They are rooted in the same inclosure, and assume the same privileges and name as Christians. But they are "tares," and were not planted by the Son of man but by the devil" (v. 39). The servants at once think of a remedy: "Nay; let both grow together until the harvest,'' said "the householder." And the harvest, we are told in v. 39, "is the end of the world "; not of the inhabited earth, but of the age or dispensation when "the Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire." "Then"--after this interposition of a judgment that separates the tares from the wheat-"then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Is this pessimism or truth? The following parables of the "mustard seed" and the "leaven" enforce the same general truth, and teach the expansion of the church and the diffusion of heavenly principles, resisted and counter-worked by the devil, both in his visible and imperceptible or hidden operations. And these "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," that Jesus gave the disciples to know (v. 11), harmonize perfectly with the warnings found all through the Scriptures. "Take heed," says Paul, "therefore to your own selves, and to all the flock...for I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." "Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" (Acts 20: 28-31). Was Paul a pessimist? Has not the history of Christianity from that day to this corroborated the truth of these predictions? Had not this very church of Ephesus "left her first love" before the close of the apostolic age? And so of Smyrna, Pergames, Thyatira and the others. And one of Paul's latest laments to Timothy is, "that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me." And will any one undertake to find any spot on earth where Christianity flourished in that day, that it may still be found in purity and power? Apostate Christianity and idolatrous superstition find their Mecca in Rome, Corinth and Philippi. And even the churches of the Reformation need to be again reformed and delivered from errors as gross as those against which they once fought. This is a Painful picture, but it is a true though far from being a full one.

(3.) The outlines drawn by the pen of inspiration have been filled in with the dark record of sin, that has verified the truth of prophetic revelation without one contradiction. What then,--has the gospel of Christ proven a failure? If indeed its universal supremacy in the hearts and lives of all men the world over, accomplished "by the present system of agencies," is the object and determined purpose of God in its introduction, then we are compelled to admit that, up to the present hour, a mysteriously small part of that work has been accomplished. But for ourselves we decline the sad conclusions of such a position. We believe that the gospel of the Son of God has always been successful, and has never been a failure; Successful, because accomplishing in every age, in every land, and in every heart, the very object for which it was designed. Of course, always under the limitations revealed in God's word. Successful because His word shall not return unto Him void, "but it shall accomplish that which I please, and shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." What, then, does God please to accomplish by the gospel?

First, that it shall be "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." An explicit and declared purpose, limited by a condition and made effectual by the Holy Spirit, in the soul of every individual sinner in every age and in every clime that complies with the conditions. And so, in every single instance, a victory has been scored for the gospel of Jesus Christ. "Hope of success," then, in this battle is not built upon our confidence in the purity, wisdom and ultimate triumph of that great corporate body known as the church, but upon the personal promise of our Lord to every one of His disciples: "Lo, I with you alway," and His commission to "preach the gospel to every creature." This simplifies things wonderfully. It brings the battle down to three. The Lord an His disciple on one side and the "every creature" on the other. In such a conflict there is no such word as fail. If the gospel is believed and Christ is received, that is "success." And if rejected and we are only the "savor of death unto death," yet having done the will of God, we can still give thanks unto Him who "always causeth us to triumph in Christ." Thus "we are able" because Christ is able, and willing "to work in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure." Not because we think this or that. Nor do we find the acceptance of certain "views" necessary in order to prevent missionary ardor from chilling in the breast of him who is really warmed and energized by the Holy Ghost; of him who really believes that he stands face to face with a perishing world, for whom he has a mission of mercy that must be delivered in haste, and accepted at once or rejected at its imminent peril; who has no business to administer opiates to rebels, concerning countless ages of social improvement and amelioration, political enlightenment and triumph and final Christianization, when God's word expressly forbids such ideas of universal and peaceful conquest. "But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion to consume and destroy it to the end." Final, sudden, swift and sure destruction awaits the day when the "stone cut out without hands" shall smite and break to pieces the world kingdoms, represented by the feet of the great image seen by Daniel. "The beast shall be slain and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame." are the warnings of "him that was called Faithful and True, who in righteousness doth judge and make war."

But, secondly, God "pleases" that this gospel of the shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations. And "then shall the end come" (Matt. 24: 14). And this is being done this very hour; slowly the heavy doors, closed, bolted and barred by Satanic power, have swung open in answer to the knock of the obedient disciples of the Lord Jesus, until every one may now be said to be opened to the sower of gospel seed. Let there be an enthusiastic and determined endeavor to obey the marching orders of our Lord in His last commission, and so hasten His coming again. But it is contended that this commission demands that every individual of these nations shall be discipled. Why, then, does Jesus add to that commission the solemn warning, "He that believeth not shall be damned"? Such words preclude at once and forever the idea of any universal acceptance of the gospel. But even though they do, what is there in that or any other fact to "paralyze" any loyal soldier? "She hath done what she could," is an epitaph good enough for any follower of Jesus. And the unevangelized millions of earth might all hear the gospel in a single decade or less, if there were only enough consecrated men and women and money to carry it to them. And yet the cry that comes up for "help" from needy mission fields falls on dull ears in the church. Its members give an average of less than fifty cents each per year for foreign missions, and hardly a missionary periodical anywhere is self-supporting. This would not be so if the church cared about the heathen as much as they are interested in the politics, news, business an sensations of the day. We respectfully inquire if this "paralyzed" indifference is due to an earnest expectation of "the premillennial advent of Christ and His personal reign on the earth?" We think it is better for us occasionally thus to look at the obverse side of this picture, rather than magnify our present success and glory in it. Much as there is to rejoice over, there is yet more to humble us and provoke the query once again, "When the Son of man Cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" But if all are to be saved, why does not the query run, "Shall He find any unbelief on the earth?" But the condition of the world at the Lord's coming has been unerringly predicted by Christ Himself as one "filled with violence,'' unbelief and sensual indulgence. Read this: "As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered the ark, and knew not till the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." "Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed" (Luke 17). Thus these darkest of apostasy and retribution are chosen by our Savior Himself, not merely for points of analogy, but for their complete identity with the closing days of the dispensation "when the Son of man is revealed." Now if to some it may seem that God's scheme of redemption is a failure, compared with what they had conceived, let them remember that such failure lies at the door of human responsibility and free agency, and not at that of divine mercy and sovereignty, whose cry has ever been to men, "Why will ye die?"