« PreviousContinue »
Paul. And we have one prophetical book, which takes place after the end of the history of the whole Bible, and gives an account of the great events by which the work of redemption was to be carried on to the end of the world.
All these books are supposed to have been writ-, ten before the destruction of Jerusalem, excepting those written by the apostle John, who lived the longest of all the apostles, and wrote, as is supposed, after the destruction of Jerusalem. To this beloved disciple it was that Christ revealed those wonderful things which were to come to pass in his church to the end of time; and he put the finishing hand to the canon of Scripture, and sealed the whole of it. So that now the canon of Scripture, that great and standing written rule, which was begun about Moses' time, is completed and settled, and a curse denounced against him that adds any thing to it, or diminishes any thing from it. And so all the stated means of grace were finished in the apostolical age, or before the death of the apostle John, and are to remain unaltered to the day of judgment. Thus far we have considered those things by which the means of grace were given and established in the christian church.
IV. How the Success was carried on
From Christ's resurrection till the fall of Antichrist, is the appointed day of Zion's troubles. During this period, some part or other of the church is under persecution; and a great part of the time this is true of the whole church, or at least the great body of God's people. For the first three hundred
years after Christ, the church was generally in a state of great affliction, the object of reproach and persecution—first by the Jews, and then by the Heathen. After this, from the beginning of Constantine's time, the church had rest and prosperity for a little while: which is represented, Rev. 7, by the angel's holding the four winds for a little while. But presently after, the church again suffered persecution from the Arians. After that, Antichrist rose; the church was driven away into the wilderness; was kept down in obscurity, contempt, and suffering, for a long time before the reformation by Luther and others. And since the Reformation, the church's persecutions have been beyond all that ever were before. And though some parts of God's church sometimes have had rest, yet, to this day, for the most part, the true church is very much kept under by enemies, and some parts of it under grievous persecution. And so we may expect it will continue till the fall of Antichrist. Then will come the appointed day of the church's prosperity on earth, the set time in which God will favor Zion, the time when the saints shall not be kept under by wicked men, but wherein they shall reign, as it is said, Rev. 5 : 10. · And the kingdom shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.” Dan. 7: 27.
The suffering state of the church is in Scripture represented as a state of the church's travail, (John, 16. 20, 21, and Rev. 12: 1, 2,) striving to bring forth that glory and prosperity which shall be after the fall of Antichrist, and then shall she bring forth her child.
This is a long time of the church's trouble and affliction though it be but for a little
season, in comparison of the eternal prosperity of the church. Hence, under the continuance of this af. fliction, she cries out, Rev. 6 : 10, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ?" And we are told that " white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also, and their brethren that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” So Dan. 12: 6. “ How long shall it be to the end of these wonders ??'
It is to be observed, that during the time of these sufferings of the church, the main instrument of their sufferings has been the Roman government. Rome, therefore, in the New Testament, is called Babylon ; because, as of old, the troubles of the city of Jerusalem were mainly from that adverse city Babylon, so the troubles of the christian church, the spiritual Jerusalem, during the long time of its tribulation, are mainly from Rome. Before the time of Constantine, the iroubles of the christian church were from Heathen Rome; since that time, its trou. bles have been mainly from Antichristian Rome And as of old, the captivity of the Jews ceased on the destruction of Babylon, so the time of the trou ble of the christian church will cease with the destruction of the church of Rome, that spiritual Babylon. Redemption.
FROM THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST TO THE
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM.
In speaking of the success of Christ's redemption in this period, I shall notice, 1. the success itself; 2. the opposition made against it by its enemies ; and, 3. the terrible judgments of God on those enemies.
I. The success itself. Soon after Christ had entered into the holy of holies with his own blood, there began a glorious success of what he had done and suffered. Having undermined the foundation of Satan's kingdom, it began to fall apace. Swiftly did it nasten to ruin, which might well be compared to Satan's falling like lightning from heaven. Satan had exalted his throne very high in this world, even to the stars of heaven, reigning with great glory in bis heathen Roman empire; but never had he such a downfall as soon after Christ's ascension. We may suppose he had been triumphing in the death of Christ, as the greatest victory he had ever gained; and probably he imagined he had totally defeated God's design. But he was quickly made sensible that he had only been ruining his own kingdom, when he saw it falling so fast as a consequence of the death of Christ. For Christ, having ascended, and received the Holy Spirit, poured it forth abundantly for the conversion of thousands and millions of souls.
Never had Christ's kingdom been so advanced. Probably more souls were converted in the age of the apostles than had been before from the begin. ning of the world till that time. Thus God so soon began gloriously to accomplish his promise to his Son, that he should see his seed, and that the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hand, if he would make his soul an offering for sin. And,
1. Here is to be observed the success which the Gospel had among the Jews; for God began with them. Being about to reject the main body of that people, he first calls in his elect from among them. It was so in former great and dreadful judgments of God on that nation: the bulk of them were destroyed, and only a remnant saved or reformed. The bulk of the ten tribes was rejected when they left the true worship of God under Jeroboam, and more fully in Ahab's time; but yet a remnant of them was reserved. Many left their possessions in these tribes, and settled in the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; but there were seven thousand in Ahab's time who had not bowed the knee to Baal. From the captivity into Babylon, only a remnant of them ever returned to their own land. So now the greater part of the people were rejected entirely, but some few were saved. And the Holy Ghost compares this reservation of a number converted by the preaching of the apostles, to those former remnants. Rom. 9 : 27: "Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved." See Isa. 10 : 22.
The glorious success of the Gospel among the Jews after Christ's ascension, began by the pouring out of the Spirit upon the day of Pentecost. Acts, 2. So wonderful was this effusion, that we read of three thousand converted to the christian faith in one day. Acts, 2:41. And after this, God added to the church