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their enemies, (who throw medals amongst the people to perpetuate the remembrance thereof, and bestow donatives, or peculiar marks of favour upon this occasion) when he speaks of him, as ascending up on high, having led captivity captive, and chen giving gifts unto men, Eph. iv. 8. In this exalted state there are undeniable proofs of his regal dignity in the blessings which his church, in this world, receives, as the result of it as well as in the honours that are paid him by the inhabitants of heaven. The Socinians, indeed, will not allow that he executed his Kingly office on earth: but this is contrary to the account we have of his executing it in his humbled state, as above mentioned ; therefore we must suppose, that when Christ entered into his glory, he did not begin to reign; though, from that time, he has exercised his government in a different manner, upon the account whereof the gospel dispensation, which ensued thereon, is called, by way of eminence, his kingdom; and, because this dispensation began upon his ascension into heaven, it is sometimes called, in the New Testament, the kingdom of heaven.
I need not add much concerning the present exercise of his Kingly government, since the greatest part of what has been said, under this answer, has a particular regard to it. It was after his ascension into heaven that the gospel-church was established, which is sometimes called his visible kingdom ; then it was that the laws and ordinances, by which it was to be governed, were made known to it, together with the peculiar privileges that were then bestowed upon it, as the effects of Christ's royal bounty : then the Spirit was sent, and, by his assistance, the gospel was preached to all nations, saving grace plentifully bestowed on multitudes, who were enabled to subject themselves to him, as King of saints; and, in this manner, Christ has hitherto exercised his Kingly government, and will do until his second coming.
Here we shall take occasion to consider what is advanced, by several, concerning Christ's reigning a thousand years on earth, which, they suppose, will intervene between the present administration of the affairs of his kingdom, and the saints reigning with him in heaven for ever. This opinion has not only the countenance of many ancient writers, who have defended it, but it seems to be founded on several scriptures; so that we shall be led, in considering this subject, rather to enquire into the true sense of those scriptures, that speak of Christ's reigning on earth, than to deny that he will, in any sense, reign therein, in a way circumstantially different from that in which he now administers the affairs of his kingdon. And here we shall consider what is advanced, by some, concerning this matter, who assert many things relating thereunto,
which stand in need of stronger arguments to defend them, than have hitherto been brought; and then we shall consider how far we have ground, from scripture, to say, that Christ, shall reign here on earth, and all his saints that shall live therein, with him, and what we may conclude to be the true sense of those scriptures that are brought in defence of Christ's personal reign.
The opinions of those that treat on this subject, are so different, that to speak distinctly to them all, would be too great a diversion from my general design: and this also renders it more difficult, to lay down the state of the question in a few words. However, I shall briefly attempt this; and, that we may prooceed with greater clearness, shall consider what is asserted, by several writers, concerning Christ's personal reign on earth, which shall be in the latter end of the world, and is to continue, from the time that it commences, a thousand years.
(1.) Some have supposed, that this thousand years''reign includes in it the whole compass of time, in which Christ shall judge the world. This is called, indeed, in scripture, a day; but it cannot reasonably be supposed that it shall take up no more than the space of twenty-four hours; and therefore they suppose, that it shall contain the space of a thousand years, which they found partly on that scripture, in Psal. xc. 4. A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and more especially on the apostle's words, in day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day; and this they apply, in particular to the day of judgment, which is spoken of in the verse immediately foregoing; and, since we have ground to conclude that this shall be done on earth, and also, that, when Christ judges the world, it may be truly said, he exercises his Kingly office in a most glorious manner; therefore they conclude, from hence, that this thousand years' reign includes in it all the time that he will take up in judging the world : but, even in this matter, all do not agree in their sentiments; for some think, that, in this judicial process, none are to be judged but the saints, who, being acquitted by him, are said to reign with him; and, in order hereunto, that they shall be raised from the dead, which they suppose to be meant by the first resurrection, and that the rest shall not be raised till the thousand years are finished, Rev. XX. 5. But this seems not agreeable to the account we have elsewhere, in scripture, of Christ's raising the dead, coming to judgment, and determining the state, both of the righteous and wicked, as what is to be done in or near the same time, each of these being distinct branches of the same solemnity. And that which makes this opinion still more improbable, is, because in the same scripture in which we have an account of 3dly, There are others, who suppose that the general confiagration shall not be till the end of the thousand years reign; nevertheless they conclude, that the dead shall be raised, and more particularly those who are designed to reign with Christ. And, with respect to this, the sentiments of persons are somewhat different, inasmuch as some suppose that none shall be raised, at this time, but those who have suffered martyrdom for Christ's sake; and that this is the meaning of that expression, I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and the word of God, and they lived and reigned a thousand years, Rev. xx. 4. Others suppose, that because many, who have not suffered death for Christ's sake, have, in other respects, passed through an equal number of persecutions and reproaches in life, and were ready to suffer martyrdom, had they been called to it, these are not excluded ; and therefore that all the saints shall be raised from the dead, as the apostle says, The dead in Christ shall rise first, 1 Thess. iv. 16. that is, a thousand years before the wicked; and that this is intended by what is styled the first resurrection; they shall rise, not to be received immediately into heaven, but shall be first openly acknowledged, and acquitted by Christ, the Judge of all, and then reign with him on earth, throughout the whole period of time.
4thly, Others suppose, that, during this thousand years' reign, the public ordinances of God's worship, namely, the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments, and the present order and discipline of churches, shall entirely cease; to which they accommodate the sense of some scriptures, to wit, that in which it is said, concerning the New Jerusalem, that there was no temple therein that the city had no need of the sun, nor of the moon to shine in it, Rey. xxi. 22, 23. and elsewhere, when the apostle says, that the church, in celebrating the Lord's Supper, was to to shew forth the Lord's death till he come, 1 Cor. xi. 26. they suppose that the meaning is, that they were to do this till he shall come to reign on earth, and no longer.
5thly, There are some who entertain very carnal notions of the saints reigning with Christ, inconsistent with perfect holiness; and speak of pleasures, which they shall then enjoy, tha: are more agreeable to Mahomet's paradise, than the life of saints, admitted to such privileges, which they suppose them to be partakers of. And some proceed yet farther in their wild and ungrounded fancies, when they think that a small number of the wicked shall be left in the world, to be, as it were, slaves to them ; all which are inconsistent with the spirituality of Christ's kingdom. Such extremes as these, many, who, have defended Christ's personal reign on earth, have unwarily run into; among whom there are some ancient writers, who have
led the way to others, who speak of it as the generally received opinion of the fathers in the three first centuries *; but these are not much to be depended on, as to the sense they give of scripture, any more than those who have lived in latter ages, especially in those things which they advance, that seem to be inconsistent with the spirituality of Christ's kingdom : But if this account, which they give of it, appear to be contrary thereunto, what they farther say concerning it, and others, who improre upon their scheme, is much more remote from it, when they speak of the building of Jerusalem, and that being the principal seat of Christ's reign; and of several things relating to it, which are of such a nature, and contain so great a reproach on Christ's kingdom, that I forbear to mention them; and there are very few who will think them consistent with the character of saints. This gave disgust to Augustin, who, at first, adhered to this opinion, but afterwards was justly prejudiced against itt.
Thus we have given a brief account of the different sentiments of many, who treat in their writings of Christ's personal reign, of which some are maintained by persons of great worth and judgment, and seem more agreeable to the sense of those scriptures, that are brought to defend them, than others; these ought to be farther considered, that it may appear whether they are just or no. As for those, which can hardly be called aný other than romantic, and have little more to support them, than the ungrounded conjecture of those who advance them, and are so far írom agreeing with the general scope and design of scripture, that they contain a reflection on the methods of Christ's government, rather than an expedient to advance it; these carry in themselves their own confutation, and nothing farther need be said in opposition to them.
* Justin Martyr seems to speak of it not only as his own opinion, but as that which was generally held by the orthodor in his day, joins the belief hereof with that of the resurrection of the dead, and supposes it to be founded on the writings of some of the prophets. Vid. Justin Martyr Dialog. cum. Tryph. Jud. page 307. 'Eya dt, xoll & TOYS ειση ορθογνωμονες καλα πανια Χριςιανοι, και σαρκος ανας ασιν γενησεθαι επιςαμεθα, και χιλια ειν εν φυσαλημ οικοδομηθωση και κοσμηθωση και πλαλυνθιση, οι προφηται Ιεζεκιήλ, και Ησαιας, x41 anno oporoz xon. And Irenæus (Vid. advers. Hær. Lib. V. cap. 33. not only gives into this opinion, but intimates, that it was brought into the church before his time, by one Papias, cotemporary with Polycarp, and that he recieved it from those who had it imparted to them by the apostle John: But Eusebius, Vid. Euseb. Hist. Eccles. Lib. III. cap. 33.) though he speaks concerning this Papius, as one who was intimate with Polycarp, notwithstanding represents him as u very weak man; and therefore there is little credit to be given to his account of this matter, as agreeable to the apostle's sentiments or writings ; and Ireneus himself, in the place before mentioned, cites a passage out of the same author, which, he pretends, he received from those that had it from the apostle Jolin, concerning a certuin time, in which there shall be vines, which shall produce ten thousand branches, and each of these as many smaller branches, and each of these smaller branches huve ten thousand twigs, and cvery twig shall bear ten thousand clusters of grupes, and every cluster ten thousand grupes; which shews that the man was ready to swullow any fuble he heard; and, if it wils told him so, to father it upon the apostle, which discorers how little credit was to be given to what he says concerning this opinion, especiully as he explains it, as transmitted to the church by the apostle John. Anil Tertullian is also mentioned, as giving some occasional hints, which shew that he was of this opinion. And Lactantius, who, in his Ciceronian style, describes the happy condition that the church shall be int, (without having much regard to those spiritual privilrges that it shall enjoy, in which sense the predictions of the prophets, concerning it, are principally to be understood ) takes his plan more especially from some things that are said concerning it, in the Sybilline oracles. Vid. Lanctant. de vita beat. Lib. VII. cap. 24. & Epitom.
† Vid. Aug. de Civ. Dei. Lib, II. cap. 7.
Before we proceed to consider how far Christ's reign on earth may be defended, and in what other respects several things, which are asserted, relating to some circumstances, that they suppose, will attend it, do not seem to be sufficiently founded on scripture, we shall take leave to premise some things, in general, relating to the method in which this subject ought to be managed.
1. So far as the scripture plainly gives countenance to this doctrine in general, viz. that the adıninistration of Christ's government in this lower world, shall be attended with great glory, and shall abundantly tend to the advantage of his church, this is a subject of too great importance to be passed over with neglect, as though we had no manner of concern therein, or it were a matter of mere speculation ; for certainly all scripture is written for our learning, and ought to be studied and improved by us, to the glory of God, and our own edification. And as for those texts that speak of Christ's government, as exercised in this world, they contain matters in them not only awful and sublime, but our having just ideas thereof, will be a direction to our faith, when we pray for the further advancement of Christ's kingdom, as we are bound daily to do.
2. We must take heed that we do not give too great scope to our fancy, by framing imaginary schemes of our own, and then bringing in scripture, not without some violence offered to the sense thereof, to give countenance to them ; nor ought we to acquiesce in such a sense of scripture, brought to support this doctrine, as is evidently contrary to other scriptures or to the nature and spirituality of Christ's government.
3. We must take it for granted, that some of those scriptures, which relate to this matter, are hard to be understood, and therefore a humble modesty becomes us, in treating on this subject, rather than to censure those who differ from us, as though they were departed from that faith, which is founded on the most obvious and plain sense of scripture, especially if they maintain nothing that is derogatory to the glory of Christ; which rule we shall endeavour to observe, in what remains to be considered on this subject. And since most allow that there is a sense, in which Christ's kingdom shall be attended with