« PredošláPokračovať »
to judgment; and then we may look for some things, which the prophet here foretells, as what should come to pass in one part thereof, and other things in another. And as to what respects the knowledge of Christ being so extensive, as that it is said to cover the earth; or Christ's being elsewhere said to be a light to the Gentiles, though it denote the first success of the gospel in the conversion of the Gentiles, it does not argue, that such-like texts shall not have a farther accomplishment when those other things shall come to pass, which the prophet mentions in the foregoing verses, under the metaphor of the wolf dwelling with the lamb, &c. and other things, which relate to a more peaceable state of the church, than it has hitherto experienced. And it seems sufficiently evident, that, when this happy time shall come, the interest of Christ shall be the prevail. ing interest in the world, and the glory of his kingdom shall be more eminently displayed, than, at present, it is. In these respects, we are far from denying the reign of Christ in this lower world, for we think it plainly contained in scripture ; nevertheless,
(2.) There are several things in their scheme, which we do not think sufficiently founded in scripture. As,
First, We cannot see sufficient reason to conclude that Christ shall appear visibly, or, as they call it, personally, in his human nature, on earth, when he is said eminently to reign therein. If they intended nothing else by Christ's appearing visibly, or personally, but his farther evincing his Mediatorial glory, in the effects of his power and grace, which his church shall experience, as it does now, though in a less degree; or if they should say, that some greater circumstances of glory will then attend it, this would not be, in the least, denied : but more than this we cannot allow of, for the following reasons :
1st, Because the presence of Christ's human nature, here on earth, would not contribute so much to the church's spiritual edification and happiness, as his presence, by the powerful influence of his Holy Spirit, would do. This is sufficiently evident; for when he dwelt on earth, immediately after his incarnation, his ministry was not attended with that success that might have been expected; which gave him occasion to complain, as the prophet represents him speaking to this purpose, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, Israel is not gathered ; and, upon this, he is, as it were, comforted with the thought, that, notwithstanding, he should be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, that is, accepted of, and afterwards glorified by him, and that he should be given for a light to the Gentiles, Isa. xlix. 4–6. that is, that the gospel should be preached to all nations, and that then greater success should attend it. Now this is owing to Christ's presence by his Spi
rit; therefore, if that be poured forth in a more plentiful degree on his church it will contribute more to the increase of its graces, and spiritual comforts, than his presence, in his human nature, could do without it; and therefore it cannot be argued, that Christ's presence, in such a way, is absolutely necessary to the flourishing state of the church, to that degree, in which it is expected in the latter day. It is true, the presence of his human nature here on earth was absolutely necessary, for the impetration of redemption, or purchasing his people to himself by his death; but his presence in heaven, appearing as an Ad. vocate for them, and, as the result thereof, sending down his Spirit, to work all grace in their souls, is, in its kind, also necessary. This our Saviour intimates to his disciples, immediately before his ascension into heaven, when he says, It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come, John xvi. 7. and, if there be some peculiar advantages redounding to the church, from Christ's continuance in heaven, as well as his ascending up into it, it is not reasonable to suppose that the church's happiness, as to their spiritual concerns, should arise so much from his coming from thence into this lower world, as it does from those continued powerful influences of the Holy Spirit, which are said to depend upon, and be the consequence of his sitting at the right hand of God in heaven.
2dly, If he should appear on earth in his human nature, he must either divest himself of that celestial glory, which he is clothed with therein, agreeable to the heavenly state ; or else his people, with whom he is supposed to reign, must have such a change made in their nature, that their bodies must be rendered celestial, and their souls enlarged in proportion to the heavenly state, otherwise they would not be fit to converse with him, in an immediate way, by reason of the present frailty of their nature. Of this we have various instances in scripture: thus when Moses saw God's back-parts, that is, some extraordinary emblematical display of his glory, God tells him, Thou canst not see my face;
for no man can see me and live; and it follows, that while this glory passed by him, God put him in a clift of the rock, and covered him with his hand, Exod. xxxiii. 20_23. and assigns this as a reason, because his face should not be seen. He could not, because of the imperfection of this present state, behold the extraordinary emblematical displays of the divine glory, without the frame of nature's being broken thereby; on which occasion Augustine says, understanding the words in this sense, Lord, let me die, that I may see thee.*
Moreover, when Christ appeared to the apostle Paul, at his first conversion in the glory of his human nature, he fell to the earth, trembling and astonished, Acts ix. 6. as not being able to converse with him; and afterwards, when the same apostle was caught up into the third heaven, and had a view of the glory thereof, this was greater than his frail nature could bear, and therefore he says, that whether he was in the body, or out of the body, he could not tell, 2 Cor. xii. 2. And John, the beloved disciple, who conversed familiarly with him, when in his humbled state, and leaned on his breast at supper, John xxi. 20. when he appeared to him, after his ascension, in a glorious emblematical way, says, When I saw him, I fell at his feet, as dead, Rev. i. 17. compared with the foregoing verses, and the apostle Paul says, Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him so no more, 2 Cor. v. 16. that is, whilst we are in this world, inasmuch as we are incapable of conversing with him in his glorified human nature. This is also agreeable to what the apostle says, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. xv. 50. that is, man, in this present state, cannot enjoy those privileges which are reserved for him in heaven, which include in them a conversing with Christ, in his human nature, as well as with others, that are inhabitants of heaven.
* Moriar ut rideam.
3dly, If we suppose that Christ will reign personally on earth, it must be farther enquired; whether they that reign with him, during this period of time, shall die, or no? If not, that seems contrary to the fixed laws of nature, and this present state, as mortal, being opposed to a state of immortality and eternal life; but if they shall die, then they must necessarily lose one great advantage, which they now enjoy, in dying, namely, being with Christ, Phil. i. 23. for when they die, in some respect, they must be said to depart from Christ, and, whatever advantage the presence of the human nature of Christ is of to the inhabitants of heaven, that they must be supposed to be deprived of, whilst he is reigning on earth. These, and other things to the same purpose, are consequences of Christ's personal reign, in his human nature, on earth; for which reason we cannot acquiesce in their opinion, who maintain it.
Secondly, There is another thing, that we cannot approve of, in the fore-mentioned scheme, relating to Christ's thousand years' reign on earth, when they assert several things concerning the conversion of the Jews, which seem contrary to the analogy of faith. We have before taken it for granted that the Jews shall be converted, when this glorious reign begins, or immediately before it: but there are several things they add to this, which, we think, they have no ground, from scripture, to do; we shall mention two.
(1.) That after the Jews are converted, they shall continue a distinct body of people, governed by their own laws, as they
were before Christ's incarnation. But we rather conclude, that they shall be joined to, and become one body with the Christian church, all marks of distinction being laid aside, and shall be grufted into the same olivc-tree, Rom. xi. 24. that is, into Christ; and certainly the middle wall of partition, which was taken away by Christ, shall never be set up again. This seems to be intended by our Saviour's words, There shall be one fold, and one shepherd, John X. 16.
(2.) Besides this, there are several other things, which they assert, concerning the Jews rebuilding the temple, at Jerusalem, and that being the principal seat of Christ's reign, where the saints shall reside and reign with him. As for the temple, that was only designed as a place of worship, during the dispensation before Christ's incarnation, and was, in some respects, a type of his dwelling among us in our nature; and as for the temple service, as it is now abolished, it shall continue to be so, till the end of the world; and then, what occasion is there for a temple to be built?
And as for Jerusalem's being rebuilt, or the land of Judea's being the principal seat of Christ's kingdom on earth, we humbly conceive it io be an ungrounded supposition, or a mistake of the sense of some scriptures in the Old Testament, which were literally fulfilled in the building of Jerusalem, after the
Babylonish captivity, and have no reference to any thing now to come. And as for the land of Canaan, though it had a glory put on it some ages before our Saviour's incarnation, as being the scene of inany wonderful dispensations of providence, in favour of that people, while they remained distinct from all other nations in the world; yet we cannot conclude that it shall be a distinct place of residence for them, when, being converted, they are joined to the Christian church : and therefore the land of Canaan will be no more accounted of, than any other part of the world; and, considering also the smallness of the place, we cannot think it sufficient to contain the great number of those, who, together with the Jews, shall be the happy subjects of Christ's kingdom.
Thirdly, There is another thing, in which we cannot agree with some who treat of Christ's reign on earth, namely, when they suppose that the saints, who are to reign with him, are to be in a sinless state, little short of the heavenly. It is true, herein they are much divided in their sentiments : but some assert, that they shall be free from all the remainders of corruption; and, indeed, their argument leads them to it, if we consider the saints as being raised from the dead, and their souls brought back from heaven, into which, when they first entered, they were perfectly freed from sin. From hence it will necessarily follow, that there will be no room for the more Vo..
tification of sin, striving against it, or resisting those temptations, which we are now liable to from it: this we cannot conclude to be a privilege that any have ground to expect, while in this world; and, indeed, those graces, whereby we subdue our corruptions, or strive against temptations, are peculiarly adapted to this present state in opposition to the heavenly.
Noreover, when they say, as some do, that this reign shall be such, as that the saints shall be free from all manner of trouble, internal or external, personal or relative, at least, so long as Satan is bound, that is, to the end of these thousand years ; this seems to be more than what Christ has given his people ground to expect, who tells them, that, in the world, ye shall have, at least some degree of tribulation, John xvi. 33. and that they must wait for a perfect freedom from it till they come to heaven.
Fourthlı;, We cannot think, as some do, (as has been before observed, that, during this thousand years' reign, the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments, shall cease, and all other laws and ordinances, which Christ has ordained for the gathering and building up of particular churches, for the bringing in his elect, for the propagating his name and interest in the world by these methods, shall all be discontinued, as there will be no occasion for them. This is what we think altogether ungrounded; for we cannot but suppose, that as soon as the whole number of the election of grace are brought in, and thereby the end and design of the preaching the gospel is answered; or when Christ can say, Here am I, and all that thou hast given me, he will present them to the Father, and so receive his militant church into a triumphant state in heaven. And, indeed, it seems a very weak foundation, on which this part of their scheme depends, when they say, that those texts which speak of Christ's being with his ministers to the end of the world, Matt. xxviii. 20. and elsewhere, that, in the Lord's supper, his death is to be commemorated till he come, 1 Cor. xi. 26. relate to the coming of Christ in the Millennium, which seems a very much strained and forced sense thereof. And as for that other scripture, wherein it is said, that the New Jerusalem had no temple, and that it had no need of the sun, nor the moon, for the glory of the Lord did lighten it, and the Lamb was the light thereof, Rev. xxi. 23. this must not be brought to prove that the ordinances of divine worship, shall cease during this thousand years' reign, unless they can first make it appear that the New Jerusalem has reference thereunto; whereas some think that the Holy Ghost is here describing the heavenly state; which agrees very well with its connexion with what is mentioned in the foregoing chapter, and if this be the sepse thereof, the glory which the church shall then arrive to,