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greater circumstances of glory than it is at present, we shall proceed to shew,
(1.) How Christ's kingdom shall be advanced, in this lower world, beyond what it is at present, and that in such a way as agrees very well with the sense of several scriptures relating thereunto, without giving into some extremes, which many have done, who have plead for Christ's personal reign on earth, in such a way, in which it cannot easily be defended. '7e freely own, as what we think agreeable to scripture,
1st, That, as Christ has, in all ages, displayed his glory, as King of the Church, as has been before observed; so we have ground to conclude, from scripture, that the administration of of his government in this world, before his coming to judgment, will be attended with greater magnificence, more visible marks of glory, and various occurrences of providence, that shall tend to the welfare and happiness of his church, in a greater degree, than has hitherto been beheld, or experienced by it, since it was first planted by the apostles, after his ascension into heaven; which we think to be the sense in general, of those scriptures, both in the Old and New Testament, which speak of the latterday glory. Some of the prophets seem to look farther than the first preaching of the gospel
, and the glorious display of Christ's government that attended it, which was, in part, an accomplishment of some of their predictions relating hereunto, inasmuch as there are some expressions, which they make use of, that seem as yet not to have had their accomplishment: Thus the prophet Isaiah, when he speaks of the glory of the Lord as arising, and being seen upon the church, and the Gentiles coming to this light, and kings to the brightness thereof. Isa. Ix. 1. & seg, and many other things to the same purpose, which denote the glorious privileges that the gospel-church should enjoy : Though this, in a spiritual sense, may, in a great measure, be supposed to be already accomplished; yet there are other things, which he fortels concerning it, which do not yet appear to have had their accomplishment : as when he says, that thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night, ver. 11. And the same mode of speaking is used, concerning the New Jerusalem, in Rev. xxi. 25. as denoting the church's being perfectly free from all those afflictive dispensations of providence, which would tend to hinder the preaching and success of the gospel; and that violence should be no more heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction in thy borders, ver. 18. by which he intends the church's perfect freedom from all persecution; and that the sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory, Ver. 18, 19. This is so far from having been yet accomplished, Vol. II.
that it seems to refer to the same thing, that is mentioned concerning the New Jerusalem, Rev. xxi. 23. and almost expressed in the same words, which, if it be not a metaphorical description of the heavenly state, has a peculiar reference to the latter-day glory; and, when the prophet farther adds, that thy people shall be all righteous, as denoting that holiness shall almost universally obtain in the world, as much as iniquity has abounded in it, this does not appear to have been yet accomplished.
Again, when the prophet Micah speaks of the Mountain of the Lord, being established in the top of the mountains, und exalted above the
hills, and that people should now unto it, Micah iv. 1. though this, and some other things that he there mentions, may refer to the first preaching of the gospel, and success thereof; yet what he farther adds, that they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks ; and nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall sit every man under his vine, and under his fig-tree, and none shall make them afraid, ver. 3, 4. This prophecy, so far as it may be taken otherwise than in a spiritual sense, seems to imply a greater degree of peace and tranquility than the gospel-church has hitherto enjoyed; therefore when he says, that this shall be in the last days, ver. 1. we have reason to conclude, that he does not mean barely the last, or gospel dispensation, which commenced on our Saviour's ascension into heaven, but the last period thereof, viz. that time which we are now considering.
As to the account we have hereof in the New Testament, especially in many places in the book of the Revelation, that speak of the kingdoms of the world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and of his taking to himself his great power and reigning, Rev. xi. 15, 17. and what is spoken concerning the thousand years reign, chap. v. 20. whatever be the sense hereof, as to some circumstances of glory that shall attend this administration of the affairs of his kingdom, it certainly has not yet had its accomplishment, and therefore leads us to expect that it shall be attended with greater degrees of glory redounding to himself, which we call the latter-day glory,
2dly, Many privileges will redound to the church hereby ; for as Christ is said to reign on earth, so the saints are represented as reigning with him, as they say, Thou hast made us uinto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth, Rev. v. 10. and elsewhere, when the apostle speaks of Christ's reigning a thousand years, adds, that they shall reign with him, Rev. xx. 6. which cannot be taken in any other sense than for a spiritual reign, agreeable to Christ's kingdom, which is not of this world; therefore,
3dly, We have, from hence, sufficient ground to conclude, that when these prophecies shall have their accomplishment, the interest of Christ shall be the prevailing interest in the world, which it has never yet been in all respects, so that godliness shall be as much valued and esteemed, as it has been decried, and as universally ; and it shall be reckoned as great an honour to be a Christian, as it has, in the most degenerate age
of the church, been matter of reproach. And to this we may add, that the church shall have a perfect freedom from persecution in all parts of the world; and a greater glory shall be put on the ordinances, and more success attend them, than has hitherto been experienced. In short there shall be, as it were, an universal spread of religion and holiness to the Lord, throughout the world.
4thly, When this glorious dispensation shall commence, we have sufficient ground to conclude, that, the Anti-christian powers having been wholly subdued, the Jews shall be converted. This may be inferred from the order in which this is foretold, in the book of the Revelation, in which the fall and utter ruin of Babylon is predicted, in chap. xviii. And, after this, we read in chap. xix. of the marriage of the Lamb being come; and his wife, as having made herself ready; and others who are styled blessed, are called to the marriage-supper, in ver. 7, 9. This, as an ingenious and learned writer observes *, seems to be a prediction of the call of the Jews, and of the saints of the faithful, namely, the gospel church, who were converted before this time, being made partakers of the spiritual privileges of Christ's kingdom, together with them, and so invited to the marriagesupper ; accordingly, by the Lamb's wife, is intended the converted Jews, who are considered as espoused to him ; and inasmuch as their being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish a righteousness of their own, and not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God, Rom. X. 3. oCcasioned their being rejected; so, when they are converted, and these new espousals are celebrated, it is particularly observed, that this righteousness shall be their greatest glory, the robe that they shall be adorned with; so that when this bride is said to have made herself ready, it follows, in Rev. xix. 8. To her was granted, that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linnen is the righteousness of the saints. This prophecy, being placed immediately before the account of the thousand years' reign, in chap. xx. gives ground to conclude, that it shall be before it, or an introduction to it.
Object. I am sensible there are some who question whether those prophecies, especially such as are found in the Old Tes
• Fid. Mede Commet. min. in Apocal. cap. xix. and Dr. More, and others, whe are of the same w'inion as to this matter.
tament, that foretell the conversion of the Jews, had not their full accomplishment in the beginning of the gospel-state, when many churches were gathered out of the Jews, and some of the apostles were sent to exercise their ministry in those parts of the world, where the greatest number of them resided, upon which account Peter is called the apostle of the Jews ; for God wrought effectually in him to the apostleship of the circumcision, Gal. ii. s.
and he, together with James and John, direct their inspired epistles to them in particular.
Answ. But to this it may be replied, that there are soma scriptures, in the New Testament, relating to this matter, which do not seem, as yet, to have been accomplished, but respect this glorious dispensation, in which there shall be, as it were, an universal conversion of them in the latter day ; particularly what the apostle says, If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? Rom. xi. 15. And he adds, I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be brought in, and then all Israel shall be saved, ver. 25, 26. This seems, as yet, not to have been accomplished; and as for those scriptures, in the Old Testament, that predict many things in favour of the Jewish nation; though I will not deny that many of them had their accomplishment, either in their return from the Babylonish captivity, or in those that were converted in the beginning of the gospel-dispensation, yet I cannot think that they all had; for the prophet Hosea seems to foretell some things that are yet to come, when he speaks of them, as being many days without a king, without a prince, without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim, Hos. iii. 4. which seems to point at the condition in which they now are; and he adds, in the following words, Afterwards the children of Israel shall seek the Lord their God, and David their king, to wit, Christ, and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days ; which seems to intend their conversion, which is yet expected.
Thus far our faith, as to this matter, may be said to be built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets : but, if we pretend to determine the way, and manner in which this shall be done, we must have recourse to uncertain conjectures, instead of solid arguments. That learned writer whom I have before mentioned, * gives his opinion about it, which I will not pretend to disprove, though, indeed the ingenuity thereof is more to be valued than its convincing evidence. He supposes it shall be somewhat like the conversion of the apostle Paul, by Christ's appearing with a glorious light on earth, and then retiring to
Sce Mede's IForks, Book IV. Epist. 17. Page 938940.
heaven again : but the accommodating one particular circumstance of providence, (in which Christ seems to have another end to answer, namely, that Paul might be qualified for the apostleship by this extraordinary sight of him) to this matter, as an argument of the Jews being converted in such a manner, proves nothing at all; therefore the best way is to leave this among the secrets which belong not to us to enquire after. *
Thus concerning the conversion of the Jews, as what is expected to go immediately before those glorious times that we are speaking of. And to this we may add,
5thly, That there shall be a greater spread of the gospel through the dark parts of the earth; and so that scripture, which was but now referred to, concerning the Gentiles coming to the light of this glorious morning, or the forces of the Gentiles coming unto the church, Isa. lx. 3, 5. shall have a fuller accomplishment than hitherto it has had; as also another scripture in which the prophet says, that the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea, ch. xi. 9. We will not deny but that this had, in part, an accomplishment, when the gospel was first preached by the apostles; and, indeed, the prophet intimates, that these things shall come to pass when a rod shall come out of the stem of Jesse, ver. 1. that is, after Christ's incarnation, who was of the seed of David, according to the flesh. Therefore I cannot but think that those words, In that day, which we often meet with in scripture, ver. 10, 11. signify the whole gospel-dispensation, from the beginning thereof to its consummation, in Christ's coming
• As for the story that Mede relates, to give countenance to this opinion, con. cerning Christ's appearing, in a glorious manner, upon the Jews demanding such an extraordinary event, (after a public disputation, held three days, between Gregentius, an Arabian Bishop, and Herbanus, a Jew, a multitude of spectators being present, both Jews and Christians) and signifying that he was the same Person that their fathers had crucified; and their being first struck blind, as Paul was, and then, like him, converted and baptized, there are several things, in this account, that seem fabulous and incredible ; though it is not improbable that there was a disputation held between Gregentius and the Jews, about the truth of the Christian religion, about the year of our Lord 470; or, as others suppose, 570 : yet it is much to be questioned, whether the account we have of it be not spurious, written, by one who calls himself by that name, in Greek, about three or four hundred years since; and especiully, because so extraordinary a miracle, wrought in an age when miracles had, for so consiilerable a time, ceased, is not taken notice of by other writers, of more reputation in the age in which it is said to be wrought, especially since it would have been one of the most extraordinary proofs of the Christian religion that have been given since our Saviour's time. And it is very strange, that, as the result hereof, five millions and a half of the Jews should be converted at once, by this miracle, and yet this thing be passed over in silence by other writers; and it is very much to be questioned, whether there were such a multitude of Jews gathered together in one kingdom, and, indeed, whether that kingdom consisted of such a number of people ; and, if there were so many Jews, we must suppose that there was an equul number of Christians present; but that so many should be present at one disputation, seems incredible to a very great degree. Vid. Gregen, disputat. cum Verban. fol. 192, & 200. & Cave. Hist. ht Tom. I. poge 363.