A HISTORY OF THE WORK OF REDEMPTION, CONTAINING THE OUTLINES OF A BODY OF DIVINITY, INCLUDING A VIEW OF CHURCH HISTORY, IN A METHOD ENTIRELY NEW.
It has long been desired by the friends of Mr. Edwards, that a number of his manuscripts should be published; but the disadvantage under which all posthumous publications must necessarily appear, and the difficulty of getting any considerable work printed in this infant country hitherto, have proved sufficient obstacles to the execution of such a proposal. The first of these obstacles made me doubt, for a considerable time after these manuscripts came into my hands, whether I could, consistently with that regard which I owe to the honour of so worthy a parent, suffer any of them to appear in the world. However, being diffident of my own sentiments, and doubtful whether I were not over-jealous in this matter, I determined to submit to the opinion of gentlemen, who are friends both to the character of Mr. Edwards and to the cause of truth. The consequence was, that they gave their advice for publishing them.
The other obstacle was removed by a gentleman in the church of Scotland, who was formerly a correspondent of Mr. Edwards. He engaged a bookseller to undertake the work, and also signified his desire that these following discourses in particular might be made public.
Mr. Edwards had planned a body of divinity, in a new method, and in the form of a history; in which he was first to show how the most remarkable events, in all ages from the fall to the present times, recorded in sacred and profane history, were adapted to promote the work of redemption; and then to trace, by the light of scripture prophecy, how the same work should be yet further carried on even to the end of the world. His heart was so much set on executing this plan, that he was considerably averse to accept the presidentship of Prince-town college, lest the duties of that office should put it out of his power.
The outlines of that work are now offered to the public, as contained in a series of sermons, preached at Northampton in 1739,  without any view to publication. On that account, the reader cannot reasonably expect all that from them, which he might justly have expected, had they been written with such a view, and prepared by the author’s own hand for the press.
As to elegance of composition, which is now esteemed so essential to all publications, it is well known, that the author did not make that his chief study. However, his other writings, though destitute of the ornaments of fine language, have it seems that solid merit, which has procured both to themselves and to him a considerable reputation in the world, and with many, a high esteem. It is hoped that the reader will find in these discourses many traces of plain good sense, sound reasoning, and thorough knowledge of the sacred oracles, and real unfeigned piety: and that, as the plan is new, and many of the sentiments uncommon, they may afford entertainment and improvement to the ingenious, the inquisitive, and the pious reader; may confirm their faith in God’s government of the world, in our holy christian religion in general, and in many of its peculiar doctrines; may assist in studying with greater pleasure and advantage the historical and prophetical books of Scripture; and may excite to a conversation becoming the gospel.
That this volume may produce these happy effects in all who shall peruse it, is the hearty desire and prayer of
The reader’s most humble servant,
Newhaven, Feb. 25, 1773.
They who have a relish for the study of the Scriptures, and have access to peruse the following sheets, will, I am persuaded, deem themselves indebted to the Rev. Mr. Edwards of Newhaven, for consenting to publish them. Though the acute philosopher and deep divine appears in them, yet they are in the general better calculated for the instruction and improvement of ordinary Christians, than those of President Edwards’s writings, where the abstruse nature of the subject, or the subtle objections of opposers of the truth, led him to more abstract and metaphysical reasonings. The manuscript being intrusted to my care, I have not presumed to make any change in the sentiments or composition. I have, however, taken the liberty to reduce it from the form of sermons, which it originally bore, to that of a continued treatise; and I have so altered and diversified the marks of the several divisions and subdivisions, that each class of heads might be easily distinguished.
Edinburgh, April 29, 1774. 533
WORK OF REDEMPTION.
For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.
The design of this chapter is to comfort the church under her sufferings, and the persecutions of her enemies; and the argument of consolation insisted on, is the constancy and perpetuity of God’s mercy and faithfulness towards her, which shall be manifest in continuing to work salvation for her, protecting her against all assaults of her enemies, and carrying her safely through all the changes of the world, and finally, crowning her with victory and deliverance.
In the text, this happiness of the church of God is set forth by comparing it with the contrary fate of her enemies that oppress her. And therein we may observe,
I. How short-lived the power and prosperity of the church’s enemies is: “The moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool;”  i. e. however great their prosperity is, and however great their present glory, they shall by degrees consume and vanish away by a secret curse of God, till they come to nothing; and all their power and glory, and so their persecutions, eternally cease, and they be finally and irrecoverably ruined: as the finest and most glorious apparel will in time wear away, and be consumed by moths and rottenness. We learn who those are that shall thus consume away, by the foregoing verse, viz. those that are the enemies of God’s people: “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law, fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.
II. The contrary happy lot and portion of God’s church; expressed in these words, “My righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.”  Who shall have the benefit of this, we also learn by the preceding verse, viz. They that know righteousness, and the people in whose heart is God’s law; or, in one word, the church of God. And concerning their happiness, we may observe, wherein it consists; in its continuance.
1. Wherein it consists, viz. In
God’s righteousness and salvation towards them. By God’s righteousness
here, is meant his faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant promises to
his church, or his faithfulness towards his church and people, in
bestowing the benefits of the covenant of grace upon them. Though these
benefits are bestowed of free and sovereign grace, as being altogether
undeserved; yet as God has been pleased, by the promises of the
covenant of grace, to bind himself to bestow them, they are bestowed in
the exercise of God’s righteousness or justice. And therefore the
The other word here used is salvation. Of these two. God’s righteousness and his salvation, the one is the cause, of which the other is the effect. God’s righteousness, or covenant mercy, is the root, of which his salvation is the fruit. Both of them relate to the covenant of grace. The one is God’s covenant mercy and faithfulness, the other intends that work of God by which this covenant mercy is accomplished in the fruits of it. For salvation is the sum of all those works of God by which the benefits that are by the covenant of grace are procured and bestowed.
2. We may observe its continuance, signified here by two expressions; for ever, and from generation to generation. The latter seems to be explanatory of the former. The phrase for ever, is variously used in Scripture. Sometimes thereby is meant as long as a man lives. It is said, that the servant who had his ear bored through with an awl to the door of his master should be his for ever. Sometimes thereby is meant during the
continuance of the Jewish state. Of many of the ceremonial and Levitical laws it is said, that they should be statutes for ever. Sometimes it means as long as the world shall stand, or to the end of the generations of men. Thus,
The work of redemption is a work that God carries on from the fall of man to the end of the world.
The generations of mankind on the earth which began after the fall, by ordinary generation, are partakers of the corruption of nature that followed from it; and these generations, by which the human race is propagated, shall continue to the end of the world. These two are the limits of the generations of men on the earth; the fall of man, and the end of the world, or the day of judgment. The same are the limits of the work of redemption, as to those progressive works of God, by which that redemption is brought about and accomplished, though not as to the fruits of it; for they shall be to eternity.
The work of redemption and the work of salvation are the same thing. What is sometimes in Scripture called God’s saving his people, is in other places called his redeeming them. So Christ is called both the Saviour and the Redeemer of his people.
Before entering on the proposed History of the Work of Redemption, I would explain the terms made use of in the doctrine;—and show what those things are that are designed to be accomplished by this great work of God.
First. I would show in what sense the terms of the doctrine are used;—particularly the word redemption;— and, how this is a work of God, carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world.
I. The use of the word redemption.—And here it may be observed, that the work of redemption is sometimes understood in a more limited sense, for the purchase of salvation; for the word strictly signifies, a purchase of deliverance. If we take the word in this restrained sense, the work of redemption was not so long in doing; but was begun and finished with Christ’s humiliation. It was begun with Christ’s incarnation, carried on through his life, and finished with the time of his remaining under the power of death, which ended in his resurrection. And so we say, that on the day of his resurrection Christ finished the work of redemption, i. e. then the purchase was finished, and the work itself, and all that appertained to it, was virtually done and finished, but not actually.
But sometimes the work of redemption is taken more largely, as including all that God accomplishes tending to this end; not only the purchase itself, but also all God’s works that were properly preparatory to the purchase, and accomplishing the success of it. So that the whole dispensation, as it includes the preparation and purchase, the application and success of Christ’s redemption, is here called the work of redemption. All that Christ does in this great affair as Mediator, in any of his offices, either of prophet, priest, or king; either when he was in this world, in his human nature, or before, or since. And it includes not only what Christ the Mediator has done, but also what the Father, or the Holy Ghost, have done, as united or confederated in this design of redeeming sinful men; or, in one word, all that is wrought in execution of the external covenant of redemption. This is what I call the work of redemption in the doctrine; for it is all but one work, one design. The various dispensations or works that belong to it, are but the several parts of one scheme. It is but one design that is formed, to which all the offices of Christ directly tend, and in which all the persons of the Trinity conspire. All the various dispensations that belong to it are united; and the several wheels are one machine, to answer one end, and produce one effect.
II. When I say, this work is carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world; in order to the full understanding of my meaning in it, I would desire two or three things to be observed.
1. That it is not meant, that nothing was done in order to it before the fall of man. Some things were done before the world was created, yea from eternity. The persons of the Trinity were, as it were, confederated in a design, and a covenant of redemption. In this covenant the Father had appointed the Son, and the Son had undertaken the work; and all things to be accomplished in the work were stipulated and agreed. There were things done at the creation of the world, in order to that work; for the world itself seems to have been created in order to it. The work of creation was in order to God’s works of providence. So that if it be inquired, which are greatest, the works of creation or those of providence? I answer, the works of providence; because those of providence are the end of his works of creation; as the building of a house, or the forming of a machine, is for its use. But God’s main work of providence is this of redemption, as will more fully appear hereafter.
The creation of heaven was in order to the work of redemption; as a habitation for the redeemed;
2. Is it meant that there will be no remaining fruits of this work after the end of the world. That glory and blessedness that will be the sum of all the fruits, will remain to all the saints for ever. The work of redemption is not a work always doing and never accomplished. The fruits of it are eternal, but the work has an issue. In the issue the end will be obtained; which end will last for ever. As those things which were in order to this work—God’s electing love, and the covenant of redemption—never had a beginning; so the fruits of this work never will have an end. And therefore,
3. When it is said in the doctrine, that this is a work that God is carrying on from the fall of man to the end of the world, what I mean is, that those things which belong to this work itself, and are parts of the scheme, are all this while accomplishing. There were some things done preparatory to its beginning, and the fruits of it will remain after it is finished. But the work itself was begun immediately upon the fall, and will continue to the end of the world. The various dispensations of God during this space, belong to the same work, and to the same design, and have all one issue; and therefore are all to be reckoned but as several successive motions of one machine, to bring about in the conclusion one great event.
And here also we must distinguish between the parts of redemption itself, and the parts of the work by which that redemption is wrought out. There is a difference between the parts of the benefits, and the parts of the work of God by which those benefits were procured and bestowed. For example, the redemption of Israel out of Egypt, considered as the benefit which they enjoyed, consisted of two parts, viz. their deliverance from their former Egyptian bondage and misery, and their being brought into a more happy state, as the servants of God, and heirs of Canaan. But there are many more things which are parts of that work. To this belongs his calling of Moses, his sending him to Pharaoh, and all the signs and wonders he wrought in Egypt, and his bringing such terrible judgments on the Egyptians, and many other things.
Such is this work by which God effects redemption, and it is carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world, in two respects.
1. With respect to the effect wrought on the souls of the redeemed; which is common to all ages. This effect is the application of redemption with respect to the souls of 535particular persons, in converting, justifying, sanctifying and glorifying them. By these things they are actually redeemed, and receive the benefit of the work in its effects. And in this sense the work of redemption is carried on in all ages, from the fall of man to the end of the world. The work of God in converting souls, opening blind eyes, unstopping deaf ears, raising dead souls to life, and rescuing the miserable captives out of the hands of Satan, was begun soon after the fall of man, has been carried on in the world ever since to this day, and will be to the end of the world. God has always had such a church in the world. Though oftentimes it has been reduced to a very narrow compass, and to low circumstances; yet it has never wholly failed.
as God carries on the work of converting the souls of fallen men
through all ages, so he goes on to justify them, to blot out all their
sins, and to accept them as righteous in his sight, through the
righteousness of Christ. He goes on to adopt and receive them from
being the children of Satan, to be his own children; to carry on the
work of his grace which he has begun in them, to comfort them with the
consolations of his Spirit, and to bestow upon them, when their bodies
die, that eternal glory which is the fruit of Christ’s purchase. What
And the way of effecting this, is carried on by repeating continually the same work over again, though in different persons, from age to age. But,
2. The work of redemption with respect to the grand design in general, as it respects the universal subject and end, is carried on—not merely by repeating or renewing the same effect in the different subjects of it, but—by many successive works and dispensations of God, all tending to one great effect, united as the several parts of a scheme, and all together making up one great work. Like a temple that is building; first, the workmen are sent forth, then the materials are gathered, the ground is fitted, and the foundation laid; then the superstructure is erected, one part after another, till at length the top-stone is laid, and all is finished. Now the work of redemption in this large sense, may be compared to such a building. God began it immediately after the fall, and will proceed to the end of the world. Then shall the top-stone be brought forth, and all will appear complete and glorious.
This work is carried on in the former respect, as being an effect common to all ages; and in the latter respect—the grand design in general—not only by that which is common to all ages, but by successive works wrought in different ages. All are parts of one great scheme, whereby one work is brought about by various steps, one step in one age, and another in another. It is this last that I shall chiefly insist upon, though not excluding the former; for one necessarily supposes the other.
Having thus explained what I mean by the terms of the doctrine; I now proceed,
Secondly, to snow what is the design of this great work, or what things are designed to be accomplished by it. In order to see how any design is carried on, we must first know what it is. To know for instance, how a workman proceeds, and to understand the various steps he takes in order to accomplish a piece of work, we need to be informed what he intends to accomplish; otherwise we may stand by, seeing him do one thing after another, and be quite puzzled, because we see nothing of his scheme. Suppose an architect, with a great number of hands, were building some great palace; and one that was a stranger to such things should stand by, and see some men digging in the earth, others bringing timber, others hewing stones, and the like, he might see that there was a great deal done; but if he knew not the design, it would all appear to him confusion. And therefore, that the great works and dispensations of God which belong to this great affair of redemption may not appear like confusion to you, I would set before you briefly the main things designed to be accomplished.
I. It is to put all God’s enemies under his feet, and that his goodness may finally appear triumphant over all evil.
Soon after the world was created, evil entered into the world in the fall of the angels and man. Presently after God had made rational creatures, there were enemies who rose up against him from among them; and in the fall of man evil entered into this lower world; where also God’s enemies rose up against him. Satan endeavoured to frustrate his design in the creation of this lower world, to destroy his workmanship, to wrest the government of it out of his hands, to usurp the throne, and set up himself as the God of this world, instead of him who made it. To these ends he introduced sin into the world; and having made man God’s enemy, he introduced guilt, and death, and the most dreadful misery.
Now one great design of God, in the affair of redemption, was to subdue those enemies:
God’s design was perfectly to restore all the ruins of the fall, so far
as concerns the elect part of the world, by his Son; and therefore we
read of the restitution of all things.
Man’s soul was
ruined by the fall; the image of God was defaced; man’s nature was
corrupted, and he became dead in sin. The design of God was, to restore
the soul of man to life and the divine image in conversion, to carry on
the change in sanctification, and to perfect it in glory. Man’s body
was ruined; by the fall it became subject to death. The design of God
was, to restore it from this ruin, and not only to deliver it from
death in the resurrection, but to deliver it from mortality itself, in
making it like unto Christ’s glorious body. The world was ruined, as to man, as effectually as if it had been reduced to chaos again;
all heaven and earth were overthrown. But the design of God was, to
restore all, and as it were to create a new heaven and a new earth:
work by which this was to be done, was begun immediately after the
fall, and so is carried on till all is finished, when the whole world,
heaven and earth, shall be restored. There shall be, as it were, new
heavens, and a new earth, in a spiritual sense, at the end of the
world. Thus it is represented,
III. Another great design of God in the work of redemption, was to gather together in one all things in Christ, in heaven and in earth, i. e. all elect creatures; to bring all elect creatures, in heaven and in earth, to an union one to another in one body, under one head, and to unite all together in one body to God the Father. This was begun soon after the fall, and is carried on through all ages, and shall be finished at the end of the world.
IV. God designed by this work to perfect and complete the glory of all the elect by Christ—glory, “such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has ever entered into the 536 heart of man.”  He intended to bring them to perfect excellency and beauty in his holy image, which is the proper beauty of spiritual beings; and to advance them to a glorious degree of honour, and raise them to an ineffable height of pleasure and joy. Thus he designed to glorify the whole church of elect men in soul and body, and with them to bring the glory of the elect angels to its highest elevation under one head.
In all this God designed to accomplish the glory of the blessed Trinity
in an eminent degree. God had a design of glorifying himself from
eternity; yea, to glorify each person in the Godhead. The end must
be considered as first in order of nature, and then the means; and
therefore we must conceive, that God having professed this end, had
then as it were the means to choose; and the principal mean that he
adopted was this great work of redemption. It was his design in this
work to glorify his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; and by the Son to
glorify the Father:
Having thus explained the terms in the doctrine, and shown what things are to be accomplished by this great work of God. I proceed now to the proposed history; that is, to show how what was designed by the work of redemption has been accomplished, in the various steps of this work, from the fall of man to the end of the world.
In order to this, I would divide this whole space of time into three periods:—the
1st, reaching from the fall of man to the incarnation of Christ;—the
2d, from Christ’s incarnation till his resurrection; or the whole time of Christ’s humiliation;—the
3d, from thence to the end of the world.
Some may be ready to think this a very unequal division; and so indeed it is in some respects, because the second period, although so much shorter than either of the other—being but between thirty and forty years, whereas both the other contain thousands—in this affair is more than both the others.—I would therefore proceed to show distinctly how the work of redemption is carried on through each of these periods in their order, under three propositions.
I. That from the fall of man to the incarnation of Christ, God was doing those things which were preparatory to his coming, as forerunners and earnests of it.
II. That the time from Christ’s incarnation to his resurrection, was spent in procuring and purchasing redemption.
III. That the space of time from the resurrection of Christ to the end of the world, is all taken up in bringing about or accomplishing the great effect or success of that purpose.
In a particular consideration of these three propositions, the great truth taught in the doctrine may perhaps appear in a clear light.
PERIOD I. From the Fall to the Incarnation.
FROM THE FALL TO THE INCARNATION.
the great works of God in the world during this whole space of time, were all preparatory. There were many great changes and revolutions in the world, and they were all only the turning of the wheels of providence to make way for the coming of Christ, and what he was to do in the world. Hither tended especially all God’s great works towards his church. The church was under various dispensations of providence, and in very various circumstances, before Christ came; but all these dispensations were to prepare the way for his coming. God wrought salvation for the souls of men through all that space of time, though the number was very small to what it was afterwards; and all this was by way of anticipation. All the souls that were saved before Christ came, were only the earnests of the future harvest.
wrought many deliverances for his church and people before Christ came;
but these were only so many images and forerunners of the great
salvation. The church during that space of time enjoyed the light of
divine revelation. They had in a degree the light of the gospel. But
all these revelations were only so many earnests of the great light
that he should bring who came to be the light of the world. That whole
space of time was the time of night, wherein the church of God was not
indeed wholly without light; but it was like the light of the moon and
stars; a dim light in comparison of the light of the sun, and mixed
with a great deal of darkness. It had no glory by reason of the glory
But here, for the greater clearness and distinctness, shall subdivide this period into parts:
1st, From the fall to the flood.
2d, From thence to the calling of Abraham.
3d, From thence to Moses.
4th, From thence to David.
5th, From David to the captivity in Babylon.
6th, From thence to the incarnation of Christ.
PART I. From the Fall to the Flood.
FROM THE FALL TO THE FLOOD
though this period was the most distant from Christ’s incarnation; yet then was this glorious building begun.
I. As soon as man fell, Christ entered on his mediatorial work. Then it was that he began to execute the work and office of a mediator. He had undertaken it before the world was made. He stood engaged with the Father to appear as man’s mediator, and to take on that office when there should be occasion, from all eternity. But now the time was come. Christ the eternal Son of God clothed himself with the mediatorial character, and therein presented himself before the Father. He immediately stepped in between a holy, infinite, offended Majesty, and offending mankind. He was accepted in his interposition; and so wrath was prevented from going forth in the full execution of that amazing curse that man had brought on himself.
It is manifest that Christ began to exercise the office of mediator between God and man as soon as ever man fell, because mercy began to he exercised towards man immediately 537 There was mercy in the forbearance of God, that he did not destroy him, as he did the angels when they fell. But there is no mercy exercised toward fallen man but through a mediator. If God had not in mercy restrained Satan, he would immediately have seized on his prey. Christ began to do the part of an intercessor for man as soon as he fell; for there is no mercy exercised towards man but what is obtained through Christ’s intercession. From that day Christ took on him the care of the church, in the exercise of all his offices. He undertook to teach mankind in the exercise of his prophetical office; to intercede for fallen man in his priestly office; and to govern the church and the world as a king. He from that time took upon him the care of defending his elect church from all their enemies. When Satan, the grand enemy, had conquered and overthrown man, the business of resisting and conquering him was committed to Christ. He thenceforward undertook to manage that subtle powerful adversary. He was then appointed the Captain of the Lord’s hosts, the Captain of their salvation. Henceforward this lower world, with all its concerns, devolved upon the Son of God: for when man had sinned, Cod the Father would have no more to do immediately with this world of mankind, that had apostatized from and rebelled against him. He would henceforward act only through a mediator, either in teaching men, or in governing, or bestowing any benefits on them.
therefore, when we read in sacred history what God did, from time to
time, towards his church and people, and how he revealed himself to
them, we are to understand it especially of the second person of the
Trinity. When we read of God appearing after the fall, in some visible
form or outward symbol of his presence, we are ordinarily, if not
universally, to understand it of the second person of the Trinity.
Yea, not only this lower world devolved on Christ, that he might have the care and government of it, and order it agreeably to his design of redemption, but also in some respect the whole universe. The angels from that time are subject to him in his mediatorial office, as is manifest by the scripture history, wherein we have accounts of their acting as ministering spirits in the affairs of the church.
therefore we may suppose, that immediately on the fall of Adam, it was
made known in heaven among the angels, that God had a design of
redemption with respect to fallen man; that Christ had now taken upon
him the office and work of a mediator between God and man; and that
they were to be subservient to him in this office. And as Christ, in
this office, has been solemnly installed the King of heaven, and is
thenceforward, as God-man, the Light, the Sun of heaven,
II. Presently upon this the gospel was first revealed on earth, in these words,
This lower world before the
fall enjoyed noon-day light; the light of the knowledge of God, the
light of his glory, and the light of his favour. But when man fell, all
this light was at once extinguished, and the world reduced back again
to total darkness; a worse darkness than that which was in the
beginning of the world, (
Here was a certain intimation of a merciful design by “the seed of the woman,” which was like the first glimmerings of the light in the east when the day first dawns. This intimation of mercy was given, even before sentence was pronounced on either Adam or Eve, from tenderness to them, lest they should be overborne with a sentence of condemnation, without having any thing held forth whence they could gather any hope.
One of those great things that were intended to be done by the work of redemption, is more plainly intimated, viz. God subduing his enemies under the feet of his Son. God’s design of this was now first declared. Satan probably had triumphed greatly in the fall of man, as though he had defeated the designs of God in his creation. But in these words God gives him a plain intimation, that he should not finally triumph, but that a complete victory and triumph should be obtained over him by the seed of the woman.
This revelation of the gospel was the first thing that Christ did in his prophetical office. From the fall of man to the incarnation of Christ, God was doing those things that were preparatory to Christ’s coming to effect redemption, and were forerunners and earnests of it. And one of those things was to foretell and promise it, as he did from age to age, till Christ came. This was the first promise given, the first prediction that ever was made of it.
Soon after this, the custom of sacrificing was appointed, to be a
standing type of the sacrifice of Christ, till he should come, and
offer up himself a sacrifice to God. Sacrificing was not a custom first
established by the Levitical law, for it had been a part of God’s
instituted worship from the beginning. We read of the patriarchs,
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, offering sacrifice, and before them Noah,
and Abel. And this was by divine appointment; for it was part
of God’s worship in his church, which was offered up in faith, and
which he accepted. This proves that it was by his institution; for
sacrificing is no part of natural worship. The light of nature doth not
teach men to offer up beasts in sacrifice to God; and seeing it was not
enjoined by the law of nature, to be acceptable to God, it must be by
some positive command or institution; for God has declared his
abhorrence of such worship as is taught by the precept of men without
It is very probable that sacrifice was instituted immediately after God had revealed the covenant of grace, (
next thing that we have an account of, after God had pronounced
sentence on the serpent, on the woman, and on the man, was, that God
made them coats of skins, and clothed them; which, by the generality of
divines, are thought to be the skins of beasts slain in sacrifice. For
we have no account of any thing else that should be the occasion of
man’s slaying beasts, except to offer them in sacrifice, till after the
flood. Men were not wont to eat the flesh of beasts
as their common food till after the flood. The first food of man before
the fall, was the fruit of the trees of paradise; and after the fall,
his food was the produce of the field:
Our first parents, who were naked, were clothed at the expense of life. Beasts were slain, in order to afford them clothing. So doth Christ, to afford clothing to our naked souls. The tabernacle in the wilderness, which signified the church, was covered with rams’ skins died red, as though they were dipped in blood, to signify that Christ’s righteousness was wrought out through the pains of death, under which he shed his precious blood.
observed before, that the light that the church enjoyed from the fall
of man, till Christ came, was like the light which we enjoy in the
night; not the light of the sun directly, but as reflected from the
moon and other luminaries; which light prefigured Christ, the Sun of
righteousness that was afterwards to arise. This light they had chiefly
two ways; one was by predictions of Christ to come; the other was by
types and shadows, whereby his coming and redemption
were prefigured. The first thing that was done to prepare the way for
Christ in the former of these ways, was in that promise noticed in the
foregoing particular; and the first thing of the latter kind, was that
institution of sacrifices that we are now upon. As that promise in
The institution of sacrifices was a great thing done towards preparing the way for Christ’s coming, and working out redemption. For the sacrifices of the Old Testament were the main of all the Old-Testament types of Christ and his redemption; and it tended to establish in the minds of God’s visible church the necessity of a propitiatory sacrifice, in order to the Deity’s being satisfied for sin; and so prepared the way for the reception of the glorious gospel, that reveals the great sacrifice in the visible church, and not only so, but through the world of mankind. For from this institution of sacrifices all nations derived the custom of sacrificing to the gods, to atone for their sins. No nation, however barbarous, was found without it. This is a great evidence of the truth of the christian religion; for no nation except the Jews, could tell how they came by this custom, or to what purpose it was to offer sacrifices to their deities. The light of nature did not teach them any such thing. That did not teach them that the gods were hungry, and fed upon the flesh which they burnt in sacrifice; and yet they all had this custom; of which no other account can be given, but that they derived it from Noah, who had it from his ancestors, on whom God had enjoined it as a type of the great sacrifice of Christ. However, by this means all nations of the world had their minds possessed with this notion, that an atonement or sacrifice for sin was necessary; and a way was made for their more readily receiving the great doctrine of the gospel, the atonement and sacrifice of Christ.
IV. God soon after the fall began actually to save the souls of men through Christ’s redemption. In this, Christ, who had lately taken upon him the work of mediator between God and man, did first begin that work, wherein he appeared in the exercise of his kingly office, as in the sacrifices he was represented in his priestly office, and in the first prediction of redemption by Christ he had appeared in the exercise of his prophetical office. In that prediction the light of Christ’s redemption first began to dawn in the prophecies of it; in the institution of sacrifices it first began to dawn in the types of it; in this, viz. his beginning actually to save men, it first began to dawn in the fruit of it.
is probable, therefore, that Adam and Eve were the first fruits of
Christ’s redemption; it is probable by God’s manner of treating them,
by his comforting them as he did, after their awakenings and terror.
They were awakened, and ashamed with a sense of their guilt, after
their eyes were opened, and they saw that they were naked, and sewed
fig-leaves to cover their nakedness; as the sinner, under the first
awakenings, is wont to endeavour to hide the nakedness of
his soul, by a fancied righteousness of his own. Then they were further
terrified and awakened, by hearing the voice of God as he was coming to
condemn them. Their coverings of fig-leaves do not answer the purpose;
but notwithstanding these, they ran to hide themselves among the trees
of the garden, because they were naked, not daring to trust to their
fig-leaves to hide their nakedness from God. Then they were further
awakened by God’s calling of them to a strict account. But while their
terrors were raised to such a height, and they stood, as we may
suppose, trembling and astonished before their Judge, without any
expedient whence they could gather any hope, then God took care to hold
forth some encouragement, to keep them from the dreadful effects of
despair under their awakenings, by giving a hint of a design of mercy
by a Saviour, even before he pronounced sentence against them. And when
after this he proceeded to pronounce sentence, whereby we may suppose
were further raised, God soon after took care to encourage them, and to
let them see, that he had not wholly cast them off, by taking a
fatherly care of them in their fallen, naked, and miserable state, by
making them coats of skins and clothing them. Which also manifested an
acceptance of those sacrifices that they offered to God, which were
types of what God had promised, when he said, The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.
This promise, there is reason to think,
they believed and embraced. Eve seems plainly to express her hope in
and dependence on that promise, in what she says at the birth of Cain,
Thus it is exceeding probable, if not evident, that as Christ took on him the work of mediator as soon as man fell; so that he now immediately began his work of redemption in its effect, and that he immediately encountered his great enemy the devil, whom he had undertaken to conquer, and rescued those two first captives out of his hands; therein baffling him, soon after his triumph over them, whereby he had made them his captives. And though he seemed sure of them and all their posterity, Christ the Redeemer soon showed him, that he was mistaken. He let him see it, in delivering those first captives, and so soon gave him an instance of the fulfilment of that 539threatening, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head;” and in this instance a presage of his subduing all his enemies under his feet.
After this we have another instance of redemption in one of their children, righteous Abel, as the Scripture calls him; whose soul perhaps was the first that went to heaven through Christ’s redemption. In him we have at least the first recorded instance of the death of a redeemed person. If he was the first, then as the redemption of Christ began to dawn before in the souls of men in their conversion and justification, in him it first began to dawn in glorification; and in him the angels began first to do the part of ministering spirits to Christ, in going forth to conduct to glory the souls of the redeemed. And in him the elect angels in heaven had the first opportunity to see so wonderful a thing as the soul of one of the fallen race of mankind, that had been sunk by the fall into such an abyss of sin and misery, brought to heaven, and in the enjoyment of heavenly glory, which was a much greater thing than if they had seen him returned to the earthly paradise. Thus they saw the glorious effect of Christ’s redemption, in the great honour and happiness that was procured for sinful, miserable creatures.
The next remarkable thing that God did in further carrying on this
great redemption, was the first uncommon pouring out of the Spirit,
through Christ, in the days of Enos. We read,
it was now first that men were stirred up to meet in assemblies to
assist one another in seeking God, so as they never had done before; it
argues something extraordinary as the cause, and could be from nothing
but the uncommon influences of God’s Spirit. We see by experience, that
a remarkable pouring out of God’s Spirit is always attended with such
an effect, viz. a great increase of the performance of the duty
of prayer. When the Spirit of God begins a work
on men’s hearts, it immediately sets them to calling on the name of the
Lord. As it was with Paul after the Spirit of God had arrested him; Behold, he prayeth!
so it has been in all remarkable effusions of the Spirit of God
recorded in Scripture; and so it is foretold it will be in the latter
days. It is foretold, that the Holy Spirit will be poured out as a
spirit of grace and supplication,
And when it is said, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord,”
no more can be intended by it, than that this was the first remarkable season
of this nature that ever was. It was the beginning, or the first, of
such a work of God. In this manner such an expression is commonly used
in Scripture: so,
It may here be observed, that from the fall of man, to our day, the work of redemption in its effect has mainly been carried on by remarkable communications of the Spirit of God. Though there be a more constant influence of God’s Spirit always in some degree attending his ordinances; yet the way in which the greatest things have been done towards carrying on this work, always have been by remarkable effusions, at special seasons of mercy, as may fully appear hereafter in our further prosecution of our subject. And this in the days of Enos, was the first remarkable pouring out of the Spirit of God that ever was. There had been a saving work of God on the hearts of some before; but now God was pleased to bring in a harvest of souls to Christ; so that in this we see that great building, of which God laid the foundation immediately after the fall of man, carried on further, and built higher, than ever it had been before.
VI. The next thing I shall notice, is the eminently holy life of Enoch, who, we have reason to think, was a saint of greater eminency than any that had been before him; so that in this respect the work of redemption was carried on to a still greater height. With respect to its effect in the visible church in general, we observed above how it was carried higher in the days of Enos than ever it had been before. Probably Enoch was one of the saints of that harvest; for he lived all the days that he did live on earth, in the days of Enos. And with respect to the degree to which this work was carried in the soul of a particular person, it was raised to a greater height in Enoch than ever before. His soul, built on Christ, was built up in holiness to a greater height than any preceding instance. He was a wonderful instance of Christ’s redemption, and of the efficacy of his grace.
VII. In Enoch’s time, God more expressly revealed the coming of Christ than he had before done.
And as this prophecy of Christ’s coming is more express than any preceding it; so it is an instance of the increase of that gospel-light which began to dawn presently after the fall of man; and of that building which is the subject of our present discourse, being yet further carried on, and built up higher than it had been before.
And here, by the way, I would observe, that the increase of gospel-light, and the progress of the work of redemption, as it respects the church in general, from its erection to the end of the world, is very similar to the progress of the same word and the same light, in a particular soul, from the time of its conversion, till it is perfected and crowned in glory. Sometimes the light shines brighter, 540and at other times more obscurely; sometimes grace prevails, at other times it seems to languish for a great while together; now corruption prevails, and then grace revives again. But in general grace is growing: from its first infusion, till it is perfected in glory, the kingdom of Christ is building up in the soul. So it is with respect to the great affair in general, as it relates to the universal subject of it, and as it is carried on from its first beginning, till it is perfected at the end of the world.
VIII. The next remarkable thing towards carrying on this work, was the translation of Enoch into heaven.
When showing what God aimed at in the work of redemption, or what were the main things he intended to bring to pass; among other things I mentioned the perfect restoration of the ruins of the fall, with respect to the elect, both in soul and body. Now this translation of Enoch was the first instance of restoration with respect to the body. There had been many instances of restoring the soul of man by Christ’s redemption, but none of redeeming and actually saving the body, till now. All the bodies of the elect are to be saved as well as their souls. At the end of the world, all their bodies shall actually be redeemed; those that then shall have been dead, by a resurrection; and others, that then shall be living, by causing them to undergo a glorious change. There was a number of the bodies of saints raised and glorified, at the resurrection of Christ; and before that there was an instance of a body glorified in Elijah. But the first instance of all was this of Enoch.
this, the work of redemption was carried on still further; as, this
wonderful work of God afforded a great increase of gospel-light to the
church, hereby it had a clearer manifestation of a future state, and of
the glorious reward of the saints in heaven. We are told,
The next thing that I shall observe, was the upholding of the church of
God in that family from which Christ was to proceed during that great
and general defection which preceded the flood. The church of God, in
all probability, was small, in comparison with the rest of the world,
from the time that mankind began to multiply; or from the time,
But after the days of Enos and Enoch, (for Enoch was translated before Enos died,) the church of God greatly diminished, in proportion as multitudes of the line of Seth, born in the church of God, fell away, and joined with the wicked world, principally by means of intermarriages with them: as
Thus I have shown how God carried on the great affair of redemption; how the building went on during this first period, from the fall of man, till God brought the flood on the earth. And I would observe, that though the Mosaic history during that space be very short, yet it is exceedingly comprehensive and instructive. And it may also be profitable for us here to observe, the efficacy of that purchase of redemption which had such great effects so many ages before Christ actually appeared.
PART II. From the Flood to the calling of Abraham.
FROM THE FLOOD TO THE CALLING OF ABRAHAM.
I proceed now to show how the same work was carried on from the beginning of the flood till the calling of Abraham. For though that mighty, universal deluge overthrew the world: yet it did not overthrow this building of God, the work of redemption. This went on; and instead of being overthrown, continued to be built up, in order to a further preparation for the great Saviour’s coming into the world, for the redemption for his people.
I. The flood itself was a work of God that belonged to this great affair, and tended to promote it. All the mighty 541 works of God from the fall of man to the end of the world, are reducible to this work; and if seen in a right view, will appear as parts of it; and so many steps for carrying it on; and doubtless so great a work, so remarkable and universal a catastrophe, as the deluge was, cannot be excepted. Thereby God removed out of the way the enemies and obstacles that were ready to overthrow it.
Satan seems to have been in a dreadful rage just before the flood, and his rage then doubtless was, as it always has been, chiefly against the church of God to overthrow it; and he had filled the earth with violence and rage against it. He had drawn over almost all the world to be on his side, and they listed under his banner against Christ and his church. We read, that the earth was filled with violence; and doubtless that violence was chiefly against the church, in fulfilment of what was foretold, I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed. Their enmity and violence was so great, and the enemies of the church so numerous, the whole world being against it, that it was come to the last extremity. Noah’s reproofs, and his preaching of righteousness, were utterly disregarded. God’s Spirit had striven with them a hundred and twenty years, but all in vain; and the church was reduced to so narrow limits, as to be confined to one family. There was no prospect of any thing else but of their totally swallowing up the church, and that in a very little time; and so wholly destroying that small root that had the blessing in it, whence the Redeemer was to proceed.
And therefore, God’s destroying those enemies of the church by the flood belongs to this affair of redemption; for it was one thing that was done in fulfilment of the covenant of grace, as it was revealed to Adam: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head.”  This was only a destruction of the seed of the serpent in the midst of their most violent rage against the seed of the woman, when in the utmost peril by them.
We read in Scripture of scarce any destruction of nations but that one main reason given for it is, their enmity and injuries against God s church; and doubtless this was one main reason of the destruction of all nations by the flood. The giants that were in those days, in all likelihood, got themselves renown by their great exploits against heaven, and against Christ and his church, the remaining sons of God that had not corrupted themselves.
read, that just before the world shall be destroyed by fire, “the
nations that are in the four quarters of the earth, shall gather
together against the church as the sand of the sea, and shall go up on
the breadth of the earth, and compass the camp of the saints about, and
the beloved city; and then fire shall come down from God out of heaven,
and devour them,”
By means of this flood, all the enemies of God’s church, against whom that little handful had no strength, were swept off at once. God took their part, appeared for them against their enemies, and drowned those of whom they had been afraid, in the flood of water, as he drowned the enemies of Israel that pursued them in the Red sea.
Indeed God could have taken other methods to deliver his church: he could have converted all the world instead of drowning it; and so he could have taken another method than drowning the Egyptians in the Red sea. But that is no argument, that the method he did take, was not a method to show his redeeming mercy to them.
the deluge the enemies of God’s people were dispossessed of the earth,
and the whole earth was given to Noah and his family to possess it in
quiet; as God made room for the Israelites in Canaan, by
casting out their enemies from before them. And God thus taking the
possession of the enemies of the church, and giving it all to his
church, was agreeable to that promise of the covenant of grace:
Another thing belonging to the same work, was God’s wonderfully
preserving that family of which the Redeemer was to proceed, when all
the rest of the world was drowned. God’s drowning the world, and saving
Noah and his family, were both reducible to this great work. The saving of Noah and his family belonged to it two ways, viz. as
from that family the Redeemer was to proceed, and it was the mystical
body of Christ that was there saved. The
manner of saving those persons, when all the world besides was so
overthrown, was very wonderful. It was a wonderful type of the
redemption of Christ, of that redemption that is sealed by the baptism
of water, and is so spoken of in the New Testament, as
III. The next thing I would observe is, the new grant of
the earth God made to Noah and his family immediately after the flood,
as founded on the covenant of grace. The sacrifice of Christ was
represented by Noah’s building an altar to the Lord, and offering a
sacrifice of every clean beast, and every clean fowl. And we have an
account of God accepting this sacrifice: and thereupon he blessed Noah,
and established his covenant with him, and with his seed,
promising to destroy the earth in like manner no more; signifying that
it is by the sacrifice of Christ, God’s favour is obtained, and his
people are in safety from destroying judgments, and obtain the blessing
of the Lord. And God now, on occasion of this sacrifice that Noah
offered, gives him and his posterity a new grant of the earth; a new
power of dominion over the creatures, as founded on that sacrifice, and
so founded on the covenant of grace. And so it is to be looked upon as
different grant from that which was made to Adam,
after the flood, on Noah’s offering a sacrifice that represented the
sacrifice of Christ, God in smelling a sweet savour, or accepting the
sacrifice—as it was a representation of the true sacrifice of Christ,
which is a sweet savour indeed to God—gives Noah a new grant of the
earth, founded on that covenant of grace which is by the sacrifice of
Christ, with a promise annexed, that now the earth should no more be
destroyed, till the consummation
IV. On this God renews with Noah and his sons the covenant of grace,
V. God’s disappointing the design of building the city and tower of Babel belongs to the great work of redemption. For that was undertaken in opposition of this great building of God of which we are speaking. Men’s going about to build such a city and tower was an effect of the corruption into which mankind were now fallen. This city and tower was set up in opposition to the city of God, as the god to whom they built it, was their pride. Being sunk into a disposition to forsake the true God, the first idol they set up in his room, was their own fame. And as this city and tower had their foundation laid in the pride and vanity of men, and the haughtiness of their minds, so it was built on a foundation exceedingly contrary to the nature of the kingdom of Christ, and his redeemed city, which has its foundation laid in humility.
Therefore God saw that it tended to frustrate the design of that great building which was founded in Christ’s humiliation: and therefore the thing displeased the Lord, and he baffled and confounded the design. God will frustrate and confound all other designs, that are set up in opposition to the great work of redemption.
They intended to have built Babel up to heaven. However, that building of which we speak shall reach to heaven indeed, the highest heavens, at the end of the world, when it shall be finished: and therefore God would not suffer the building of his enemies, in opposition to it, to prosper. If they had prospered in building that city and tower, it might have kept the world of wicked men, the enemies of the church, together, as that was their design. They might have remained united in one vast, powerful city; and so have been too powerful for the city of God.
This Babel is the same with the city of Babylon; for Babylon in the original is Babel. But Babylon is always spoken of in Scripture as chiefly opposite to the city of God, as a powerful and terrible enemy, notwithstanding this great check put to the building of it in the beginning. But it probably would have been vastly more powerful, and able to vex if not to destroy the church of God, if it had not been thus checked.
Thus it was in kindness to his church, and in prosecution of the great design of redemption, that God put a stop to the building of the city and tower of Babel.
VI. The dispersing
of the nations, and dividing the earth among its inhabitants,
immediately after God had caused the building of Babel to cease. This
was done so as most to suit the great design of redemption. And
particularly, God therein had an eye to the future propagation of the
gospel among the nations. They were so placed, their habitation so
limited, round about the land of Canaan, as most suited that design.
Another thing I would mention in this period, was God’s preserving the
true religion in that line from which Christ was to proceed, when the
world in general apostatized to idolatry, and the church was in
imminent danger of being swallowed in the general corruption. Although
God had lately wrought so wonderfully for the deliverance of his
church, and had shown so great mercy towards it, as for its sake even
to destroy all the rest of the world; and although he had
lately renewed and established his covenant of grace with Noah and his
sons; yet so prone is the corrupt heart of man to depart from God, and
to sink into the depths of wickedness, darkness, and delusion, that the
world soon after the flood fell into gross idolatry; so that before
Abraham the distemper was become almost universal. The earth was become
very corrupt at the time of the building of Babel; even God’s people
themselves, that line of which Christ was to come.
We are not to understand, that they were wholly drawn off to idolatry, to forsake the true God. For God is said to be the God of Nahor:
This was the second time that the church was almost brought to nothing by the corruption and general defection of the world from true religion. But still the true religion was kept up in the family from which Christ was to proceed. Which is another instance of God’s remarkably preserving his church in a time of a general deluge of wickedness; and wherein, although the god of this world raged, and had almost swallowed up God’s church, yet he did not suffer the gates of hell to prevail against it.
PART III. From Abraham to Moses.543
FROM THE CALLING OF ABRAHAM TO MOSES.
I proceed now to show how the work of redemption was carried on from the calling of Abraham to Moses. And,
I. It pleased God now to separate that person of whom Christ was to come, from the rest of the world, that his church might be upheld in his family and posterity till that time. He called Abraham out of his own country, and from his kindred, to go into a distant country, that God should show him; and brought him first out of Ur of the Chaldees to Charran, and then to the land of Canaan.
It was before observed, that the idolatrous corruption of the world was now become general; mankind were almost wholly overrun with idolatry. God therefore saw it necessary, in order to uphold true religion in the world, that there should be a family separated from all others. It proved to be high time to take this course, lest the church of Christ should wholly be carried away with the apostacy. For Abraham’s own country and kindred had most of them fallen off; and without some extraordinary interposition of Providence, in all likelihood, in a generation or two more, the true religion in this line would have been extinct. And therefore God called Abraham, the person in whose family he intended to uphold the true religion, out of his own country, and from his kindred, to a far distant country, that his posterity might there remain a people separate from all the rest of the world; that so the true religion might be upheld there, while all mankind besides were swallowed up in heathenism.
land of the Chaldees, whence Abraham was called, was the country about
Babel. Babel, or Babylon, was the chief city of Chaldea. Learned men
suppose by what they gather from the most ancient accounts of things,
that it was in this land idolatry first began; that Babel and Chaldea
were the original and chief seats of the worship of idols, whence it
spread into other nations. And therefore the land of the Chaldeans, the
country of Babylon, is in Scripture called
the land of graven images;
This was a new thing: God had never taken such a method before. His church had not in this manner been separated from the rest of the world till now; but were wont to dwell with them, without any bar or fence to keep them separate; the mischievous consequence of which had been found once and again. Before the flood, the effect of God’s people living intermingled with the wicked world, without any remarkable wall of separation, was, that the sons of the church joined in marriage with others, and thereby almost all soon became infected, and the church was almost brought to nothing. The method that God then took to fence the church was, to drown the wicked world, and save the church in the ark. Before Abraham was called, the world was become corrupt again. But now God took another method; he did not destroy the wicked world, and save Abraham, and his wife, and Lot, but calls these persons to go and live separate from the rest of the world.
This was a new and great thing, that God did toward the work of redemption. It was about the middle of the space of time between the fall of man and the coming of Christ; about two thousand years before the great Redeemer was to appear. But by this calling of Abraham, the ancestor of Christ, a foundation was laid for upholding the church in the world, till Christ should come. For the world having become idolatrous, there was a necessity in order to this, that the seed of the woman should be thus separated from it.
And then it was needful that there should be a particular nation separated from the rest of the world, to receive the types and prophecies that were to be given of Christ, to prepare the way for his coming; that to them might be committed the oracles of God; that by them the history of God’s great works of creation and providence might be preserved; that Christ might be born of this nation; and that from hence the light of the gospel might shine forth to the rest of the world. These ends could not well be obtained, if God’s people, through all these two thousand years, had lived intermixed with the heathen world. So that the calling of Abraham may be looked upon as a kind of new foundation laid for the visible church of God, in a more distinct and regular state. Abraham, being the person in whom this foundation is laid, is represented in Scripture as though he were the father of all the church, the father of all them that believe; a root whence the visible church rose as a tree, distinct from all other plants. Of this tree Christ was the branch of righteousness; and from it, after Christ came, the natural branches were broken off, and the Gentiles were grafted in. So that Abraham still remains the father, the root of the church. It is the same tree which, from that small beginning in Abraham’s time, has in these days of the gospel spread its branches over a great part of the earth, and will fill the whole in due time, and at the end of the world shall be transplanted from an earthly soil into the paradise of God.
There accompanied this a more particular and full revelation and
confirmation of the covenant of grace than ever before. There had been
before this two particular and solemn editions or confirmations of this
covenant; one, to our first parents, soon after the fall; the other, to
Noah and his family, soon after the flood. And now there is a third, at
and after the calling of Abraham. It is now revealed to Abraham, not
only that Christ should come; but that he should
be his seed; and promised, that all the families of the earth should be
blessed in him. And God repeated the promises of this to Abraham. The
first promise was when he first called him,
this renewal of the covenant of grace with Abraham, several particulars
concerning it were revealed more fully than before; not only that
Christ was to be of Abraham’s seed, but also, the calling of the
Gentiles, that all nations should be brought into the church, all the
families of the earth made blessed. And then the great condition of the
covenant of grace, which is faith, was now more fully made known.
as there was now a further revelation of the covenant of grace, so
there was a further confirmation of it by seals and pledges;
particularly, circumcision, which was a seal of the covenant of grace,
as appears by the first institution of it,
family and posterity must be kept separate from the rest of the world,
till Christ should come; and this sacrament was the principal wall of
separation. Besides, God gave Abraham a remarkable pledge of the
fulfilment of the promise he had made him, in his victory over
Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him. Chedorlaomer seems to
have been a great emperor, who reigned over a great part of the world
at that day; and though he had his seat at Elam, which
was not much, if
544any thing, short of a thousand miles
distant from the land of Canaan, yet he extended his empire so as to
reign over many parts of the land of Canaan, as appears by
confirmation Abraham received of the covenant of grace, was when he
returned from the slaughter of the kings; when Melchisedec the king of
Salem, the priest of the most high God, that great type of Christ, met
him, and blessed him, and brought forth bread and wine. The bread and
wine signified the same blessings of the covenant of grace, that the
bread and wine does in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. As Abraham
had a seal of the covenant in
circumcision that was equivalent to baptism, so now he had a seal of it
equivalent to the Lord’s supper. And Melchisedec’s coming to meet him
with such a seal of the covenant of grace, on the occasion of this
victory, evinces, that it was a pledge of God’s fulfilment of the same
confirmation of the covenant of grace, was the vision he had, in the
deep sleep that fell upon him, of the smoking furnace, and burning
lamp, that passed between the parts of the sacrifice, (
remarkable pledge that God gave Abraham of the fulfilment of the
covenant of grace, was his giving of that child of whom Christ was to
come, in his old age, (
you see how much more fully the covenant of grace was revealed and
confirmed in Abraham’s time than ever it had been before; by means of
which Abraham seems to have had a clear view of Christ the great
Redeemer, and the future things that were to be accomplished by him.
And therefore Christ informs us, that “Abraham rejoiced to see his day,
and he saw it. and was glad,”
The next thing is God’s preserving the patriarchs for so long a time in
the midst of the wicked inhabitants of Canaan, and from all other
enemies. The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were those of whom
Christ was to proceed; and they were now separated from the world, that
in them his church might be upheld. Therefore, in preserving them, the
great design of redemption was carried on. He preserved them, and kept
the inhabitants of the land where they
sojourned from destroying them; which was a remarkable dispensation of
providence. For the inhabitants of the land were at that day very
wicked, though they grew more wicked afterwards. This appears by
Another argument of their great wickedness, was the instances we have in Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which were some of the cities of Canaan, though they were probably most notoriously wicked; and likely to have the most bitter enmity against these holy men; agreeable to what was declared at first, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.” Their holy lives were a continual condemnation of their wickedness. Besides, it could not be otherwise, but that they must be much in reproving their wickedness, as we find Lot was in Sodom; who, we are told, vexed his righteous soul with their unlawful deeds, and was to them a preacher of righteousness.
And they were the more exposed to them, being strangers and sojourners in the land, and having as yet no inheritance there. Men are more apt to find fault with strangers, and to be irritated by any thing in them that offends, as they were with Lot in Sodom. He very gently reproved their wickedness; and they say upon it, “This fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a ruler and a judge;” and threatened what they would do to him.
God wonderfully preserved Abraham and Lot, Isaac and Jacob, and their
families, amongst them, though they were few in number, and they might
quickly have destroyed them; which is taken notice of as a wonderful
instance of God’s preserving mercy towards his church,
preservation was, in some instances especially, very remarkable; when
the people of the land were greatly irritated and provoked; as they
were by Simeon and Levi’s treatment of the Shechemites, in
And God preserved them, not only from the Canaanites, but from all others that intended mischief to them. He preserved Jacob and his company, when pursued by Laban, full of rage, and a disposition to overtake, him as an enemy. God met him, rebuked him, and said to him, “Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.” How wonderfully did he also preserve him from Esau his brother, when he came forth with an army, with a full design to cut him off! How did God, in answer to his prayer, when Jacob wrestled with Christ at Penuel, wonderfully turn Esau’s heart, and make him, instead of meeting him as an enemy with slaughter and destruction, to meet him as a friend and brother, doing him no harm!
And thus was this handful, this little root that had the blessing of the Redeemer in it, preserved in the midst of enemies and dangers: which was not unlike to preserving the ark in the midst of the tempestuous deluge.
545 IV. The next thing I would mention is, the awful destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the neighbouring cities. This tended to promote the great work designed two ways: First, as it tended powerfully to restrain the inhabitants of the land from injuring those holy strangers that God had brought to sojourn amongst them. Lot was one of those strangers; he came into the land with Abraham; and Sodom was destroyed for their abusive disregard of Lot, the preacher of righteousness. And their destruction came upon their committing a most injurious and abominable insult on Lot, and the strangers that were come into his house, even those angels, whom they probably took to be some of Lot’s former acquaintance come to visit him. They in a most outrageous manner beset Lot’s house, intending a monstrous abuse and act of violence on those strangers, and threatening to serve Lot worse than them.
But in the midst of this God smote them with blindness; and the next morning the city and the country about it was overthrown in a most terrible storm of fire and brimstone; which dreadful destruction, as it was in the sight of the rest of the inhabitants of the land, and therefore greatly tended to restrain them from hurting those holy strangers any more; it doubtless struck a dread and terror on their minds, and made them afraid to hurt them, and probably was one principal means to restrain them, and preserve the patriarchs. And when that reason is given, why the inhabitants of the land did not pursue after Jacob, when they were so provoked by the destruction of the Shechemites, viz. that the terror of the Lord was upon them; it is very probable, that this was the terror which was set home upon them. They remembered the amazing destruction of Sodom, and the cities of the plain, that came upon them for their abusive treatment of Lot, and so durst not hurt Jacob and his family, though they were so much provoked to it.
Another way that this awful destruction tended to promote this great affair of redemption, was, that hereby God remarkably exhibited the terrors of his law, to make men sensible of their need of redeeming mercy. The work of redemption never was carried on without this. The law, from the beginning, is made use of as a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ.
But under the Old Testament there was much more need of some extraordinary, visible, and sensible manifestation of God’s wrath against sin, than in the days of the gospel; since a future state, and the eternal misery of hell, is more clearly revealed, and since the awful justice of God against the sins of men has been so wonderfully displayed in the sufferings of Christ. And therefore the revelation that God gave of himself in those days, used to be accompanied with much more terror than it is in these days of the gospel. So when God appeared at mount Sinai to give the law, it was with thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud. Some external, awful manifestations of God’s wrath against sin were on some accounts especially necessary before the giving of the law: and therefore, before the flood, the terrors of the law handed down by tradition from Adam served for that purpose. Adam lived nine hundred and thirty years himself, to proclaim God’s awful threatenings denounced in the covenant made with him, and how dreadful the consequences of the fall were; and others, that conversed with Adam, lived till the flood. And the destruction of the world by the flood served to exhibit the terrors of the law, and manifested the wrath of God against sin; in order to make men sensible of the absolute necessity of redeeming mercy. And some that saw the flood were alive in Abraham’s time.
this was now in a great measure forgotten; therefore God was pleased
again, in a most amazing manner, to show his wrath against sin, in the
destruction of these cities; which was the liveliest image of hell of
any thing that ever had been; and therefore the apostle Jude says,
“They suffer the vengeance of eternal fire,”
V. God again renewed and confirmed the covenant of grace to Isaac and Jacob. To Isaac in these words;
covenant was again renewed and confirmed to Jacob at Bethel, in his
vision of the ladder that reached to heaven; which was a symbol of the
way of salvation by Christ. The stone that Jacob rested on was a type
of Christ, the stone of Israel, which the spiritual Israel rests upon;
as is evident, because it was anointed, and made use of as an altar.
But we know that Christ is the anointed of God, and is the only true
altar. While Jacob was resting on this stone, and
saw this ladder, God appears to him as his covenant God, and renews the
covenant of grace with him; as in
another remarkable confirmation of this covenant at Penuel, where he
wrestled with God, and prevailed; where Christ appeared to him in the
form of that nature which he was afterwards to receive in a personal
union with his divine nature.—And God renewed his covenant with him
again, after he left Padan-Aram, and was come up to Bethel, and where
he had the vision of the ladder; as you may see in
Thus the covenant of grace was now renewed much oftener than it had been before. The light of the gospel now began to shine much brighter, as the time of Christ’s appearing drew nearer.
The next thing I would observe, is God’s remarkably preserving the
family of which Christ was to proceed from perishing by famine, by the
instrumentality of Joseph. When there was a seven-years famine
approaching, God was pleased, by a wonderful providence, to send Joseph
into Egypt, there to provide for Jacob and his family, and to keep the
holy seed alive, which otherwise would have perished. Joseph was sent
into Egypt for that end, as he observes,
This salvation of the house of Israel, by the hand of Joseph, was upon some accounts very much a resemblance of the salvation of Christ. The children of Israel were saved by Joseph their kinsman and brother, from perishing by famine; as he that saves the souls of the spiritual Israel from spiritual famine is their near kinsman, and one that is not ashamed to call them brethren. Joseph was a brother they had hated, sold, and as it were killed; for they had designed to kill him. So Christ is one that we naturally hate, and by our wicked lives, have sold for the vain things of the world, and by our sins have slain. Joseph was first in a state of humiliation; he was a servant, as Christ appeared in the form of a servant; and then was cast into a dungeon, as Christ descended into the grave. When he rose out of the dungeon, he was in a state of great exaltation, at the king’s right hand as his deputy, to reign over all his kingdom, to provide food, to preserve life; and being in this state of exaltation, he dispenses food to his brethren, and so gives them life. So Christ was exalted at God’s right hand to be a Prince and Saviour to his brethren, received gifts for men, even for the rebellious, them that had hated and sold him.
VII. After this there was a prophecy of Christ, on some accounts more
particular than any before, in Jacob’s blessing his son Judah. This was
more particular as it showed of whose posterity he was to be. When God
called Abraham, it was revealed that he was to be of Abraham’s
posterity. Before, we have no account of any revelation concerning
Christ’s pedigree confined to narrower limits than the posterity of
Noah: after this it was confined to still
narrower limits; for though Abraham had many sons, yet it was revealed,
that Christ was to be of Isaac’s posterity. And then it was limited
still more; for when Isaac had two sons, it was revealed that Christ
was to be of Israel’s posterity. And now, though Israel had twelve
sons, yet it is revealed that Christ should be of Judah’s posterity.
Christ is the lion of the tribe of Judah. Respect is chiefly had to his
great acts, when it is said here.
VIII. The work of redemption was carried on in this period, in God’s wonderfully preserving the children of Israel in Egypt, when the power of Egypt was engaged utterly to destroy them. They seemed to be wholly in the hands of the Egyptians; they were their servants, and were subject to the power of Pharaoh: and Pharaoh set himself to weaken them with hard bondage. And when he saw that did not do, he set himself to extirpate their race, by commanding that every male child should be drowned. But after all that Pharaoh could do, God wonderfully preserved them; and not only so, but increased them exceedingly; so that, instead of being extirpated, they greatly multiplied.
Here is to be observed, not only the preservation of the nation, but
God’s wonderfully preserving and upholding his invisible church in that
nation, when in danger of being overwhelmed in the idolatry of Egypt.
The children of Israel being long among the Egyptians, and servants
under them, and so not having advantages to keep God’s ordinances among
themselves, and maintain any public worship or instruction, whereby the
true religion might be upheld, and there being
now no written word, they by degrees, in a great measure, lost the true
religion, and borrowed the idolatry of Egypt; and the greater part of
the people fell away to the worship of their gods. This we learn by
now was the third time that God’s church was almost swallowed up and
carried away with the wickedness of the world; once before the flood;
the other time, before the calling of Abraham; and now, the third time,
in Egypt. But yet God did not suffer his church to be quite
overwhelmed: he still saved it, like the ark in the flood, and as he
saved Moses in the midst of the waters, in an ark of bulrushes, where
he was in the utmost danger of being swallowed up. The
true religion was still kept up with some; and God had still a people
among them, even in this miserable, corrupt, and dark time. The parents
of Moses were true servants of God, as we may team by
I have now shown how the work of redemption was carried on from the calling of Abraham to Moses; in which we have seen many great things done towards this work, and a great advancement of this building, beyond what had preceded.
PART IV. From Moses to David.
FROM MOSES TO DAVID.
I proceed to the time which reaches from Moses to David.
The first thing that offers itself is the redemption of the church of
God out of Egypt; the most remarkable of all in the Old Testament, the
greatest pledge and forerunner of the future redemption by Christ, and
much more insisted on in Scripture than any other of those redemptions.
And indeed it was the greatest type of Christ’s redemption of any
providential event whatsoever. This was by Jesus Christ, for it was
wrought by him who appeared to Moses in the bush;
the person that sent Moses to redeem that people. But that was Christ,
as is evident, because he is called the angel of the Lord,
This was the glorious Redeemer who redeemed the church out of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh; as Christ, by his death and sufferings, redeemed his people from Satan, the spiritual Pharaoh. He redeemed them from hard service and cruel drudgery; so Christ redeems his people from the cruel slavery of sin and Satan. He redeemed them, as it is said, from the iron furnace; so Christ redeems his church from a furnace of fire and everlasting burnings.—He redeemed them with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and great and terrible judgments on their enemies; so Christ with mighty power triumphs over principalities and powers, and executes terrible judgments on his church’s enemies, bruising the serpent’s head. He saved them, when others were destroyed, by the sprinkling of the blood of the paschal lamb; so God’s church is saved from death by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, when the rest of the world is destroyed. God brought forth the people sorely against the will of the Egyptians, when they could not bear to let them go; so Christ rescues his people out of the hands of the devil, sorely against his will, when his proud heart cannot bear to be overcome.
that redemption, Christ did not only redeem the people from the
Egyptians, but he redeemed them from the devils, the gods of Egypt; for
before, they had been in a state of servitude to the gods of Egypt, as
well as to the men. And Christ, the seed of the woman, did now, in a
very remarkable manner, fulfil the curse on the serpent, in bruising
people of Israel went out with a high hand, and Christ went before them
in a pillar of cloud and fire. There was a glorious triumph over earth
and hell in that
547deliverance. When Pharaoh and his hosts,
and Satan by them, pursued the people, Christ overthrew them in the Red
sea; the Lord triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he cast
into the sea, and there they slept their sleep, and never followed the
children of Israel any more. The Red sea
represented Christ’s blood, because the apostle compares the children
of Israel’s passage through the Red sea to baptism,
Thus Christ, the angel of God’s presence, in his love and his pity, redeemed his people, and carried them in the days of old as on eagles’ wings, so that none of their proud and spiteful enemies, neither Egyptians nor devils, could touch them.
This was quite a new thing that God did towards this great work of redemption. God never had done any thing like it before;
As this people were separated to be God’s peculiar people, so all other
people upon the face of the whole earth were wholly rejected and given
over to heathenism. This was one thing that God ordered in his
providence to prepare the way for Christ’s coming, and the great
salvation he was to accomplish; for it was only to prepare the way for
the more glorious and signal victory and triumph of Christ’s power and
grace over the wicked and miserable world, and that
Christ’s salvation of mankind might become the more sensible. This is
the account the Scripture itself gives us of the matter,
cannot certainly determine precisely at what time the apostacy of the
Gentile nations from the true God, or their being concluded in visible
unbelief, became universal. Their falling away was a gradual thing, as
we observed before. It was general in Abraham’s time, but not
universal: for then we find Melchizedec, one of the kings of Canaan,
was priest of the most high God. And after this the true religion was
kept up for a while among some of the rest of Abraham’s
posterity, besides the family of Jacob; and also in some of the
posterity of Nahor, as we have instances in Job, and his three friends,
and Elihu. The land of Uz, where Job lived, was possessed by the
posterity of Uz, or Huz, the son of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, of whom
all the nations in the world, except the Israelites, and those who
embodied themselves with them, were given up to idolatry; and so
continued till Christ came, which was about fifteen hundred years. They
were concluded so long a time in unbelief, that there might be a
thorough proof of the necessity of a Saviour; that it might appear by
so long a trial, past all contradiction, that mankind were utterly
insufficient to deliver themselves from that gross darkness
and misery, and subjection to the devil; that all the wisdom of the
heathen philosophers could not deliver them from their darkness, for
the greater glory to Jesus Christ, who, when he came, enlightened and
delivered them by his glorious gospel. Herein the wonderful wisdom of
God appeared, in thus preparing the way for Christ’s redemption. This
the Scripture teaches us,
The next thing done towards the work of redemption, is God’s giving the
moral law in so awful a manner at mount Sinai. This was another new
step taken in this great affair.
The covenant of works was here exhibited as a schoolmaster to lead to Christ, not only for the use of that nation, under the Old Testament, but for the use of God’s church throughout all ages of the world. It is an instrument that the great Redeemer makes use of to convince men of their sin, misery, and helpless state, and of God’s awful and tremendous majesty and justice as a lawgiver, in order to make men sensible of the necessity of Christ as a Saviour. This work of redemption, in its saving effect on men’s souls, in all its progress, is not carried on without the use of this law delivered at Sinai.
It was given in an awful manner, with a terrible voice, exceedingly loud and awful, so that all the people in the camp trembled; and even Moses himself, though so intimate a friend of God, said, “I exceedingly fear and quake. “ The voice was accompanied with thunders and lightnings, the mountain burning with fire to the midst of heaven, and the earth itself shaking and trembling. This was done in order to make all sensible how great that authority, power, and justice were, that stood engaged to 548exact the fulfilment of this law, and to see it fully executed. Here might he understood, how strictly God would require the fulfilment; and how terrible his wrath would be against every transgressor. Men, being sensible of these things, might thoroughly prove their own hearts, and know how impossible it is for them to obtain salvation by the works of the law, and be assured of their absolute need of a mediator.
If we regard the law given at mount Sinai—not as a covenant of works, but—as a rule of life, it is employed by the Redeemer, from that time to the end of the world, as a directory to his people, to show them the way in which they must walk, as they would go to heaven: for a way of sincere and universal obedience to this law is the narrow way that leads to life.
IV. The next thing observable in this period, was God’s giving the typical law, those precepts that did not properly belong to the moral law. Not only those laws which are commonly called ceremonial, which prescribe the ceremonies and circumstances of the Jewish worship, and their ecclesiastical state; but also those that were political, for regulating the Jewish commonwealth, commonly called judicial laws, were many of them typical. The giving this typical law was another great thing that God did in this period, tending to build up the glorious structure of redemption. There had been many typical events of providence before, that represented Christ and his redemption, and some typical ordinances, as particularly those two of sacrifices and circumcision: but now, instead of representing the great Redeemer in a few institutions, God enacts a law full of typical representations of good things to come. By these, that nation were directed every year, month, and day, in their religious actions, and in their conduct, in all that appertained to their ecclesiastical and civil state, to something of Christ; one observance exhibiting one doctrine, or one benefit; another, another; so that the whole nation by this law was, as it were, constituted in a typical state. Thus the gospel was abundantly held forth to that nation; so that there is scarce any doctrine of it, but is particularly taught and exhibited by some observance of this law; though it was in shadows, and under a vail, as Moses put a vail on his face when it shone—To this typical law belong all the precepts which relate to building the tabernacle, set up in the wilderness, and all its form, circumstances, and utensils.
V. About this time was given to the church the first written word of God. This was another great thing done towards the affair of redemption, a new and glorious advancement of the building; which God has given for the regulation of faith, worship, and practice to the end of the world. This rule grew, and was added to from that time, for many ages, till it was finished, and the canon of Scripture completed by the apostle John. It is not very material, whether the first written word was the ten commandments, written on the tables of stone with the finger of God, or the book of Job; and whether the book of Job was written by Moses, as some suppose, or by Elihu, as others. If it was written by Elihu, it must have been before this period; but yet could not be far from it, as appears by considering whose posterity the persons spoken of in it were, together with Job’s great age, before it was written.
written word of God is the main instrument employed by Christ, m order
to carry on his work of redemption in all ages. There was a necessity
now of the word of God being committed to writing, for a steady rule to
God’s church. Before this, the church had the word by tradition, either
by immediate tradition from eminent men inspired, that were living, or
else by tradition from former generations, which might be had with
tolerable certainty in ages preceding this, by
reason of men’s long lives. Noah might converse with Adam, and receive
traditions from him; and Noah lived till about Abraham’s time: and the
sons of Jacob lived a considerable time to deliver the revelations made
to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to their posterity in Egypt. But the
distance from the beginning of things was become now so great, and the
lives of men become so short—being brought down to the present standard
about the time of Moses—and God having now separated a nation to be a
peculiar people, to be the keepers of the oracles of God; God saw it to
be a convenient time now to commit his word to writing, to remain
henceforward for a steady rule throughout all ages. And therefore,
besides the book of Job, Christ wrote the ten commandments on tables of
stone, with his own finger. After this, the whole law, as containing
the substance of the five books of Moses, was by God’s special command
committed to writing, which was called “the book of the law,” and was
laid up in
the tabernacle, to be kept there for the use of the church,
God was pleased now wonderfully to represent the progress of his
redeemed church through the world to their eternal inheritance, by the
journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness, from Egypt to
Canaan. Here all the various steps of the redemption of the church by
Christ were represented, from the beginning to its consummation in
glory. The state they are redeemed from is represented by Egypt, and
their bondage there, which they left. The purchase of
their redemption was represented by the sacrifice of the paschal lamb,
which was offered up that night in which God slew all the first-born of
Egypt. The beginning of the application of the redemption of Christ’s
church in their conversion, was represented by Israel’s going out of
Egypt, and passing through the Red sea in so extraordinary and
miraculous a manner. The travel of the church through this evil world,
and the various changes through which me church passes, was represented
journey of the Israelites through the wilderness. The manner of their
being conducted by Christ, was represented by the Israelites being led
by the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night. The
manner of the church’s being supported in their progress, supplied with
spiritual food, and daily communications from God, was represented by
his supplying the children of Israel with manna from
heaven, and water out of the rock. The dangers that the saints must
meet with in their
course through the world, were represented by the fiery flying serpents
in the wilderness. The conflicts the church has with her enemies, were
represented by their battle with the Amalekites and others. And
innumerable other particulars might be mentioned, which were lively
images of what the church and saints meet with in all ages of the
world. That these things were typical, is manifest from
Another thing here must not be omitted, which was a great and
remarkable dispensation of Providence, respecting the whole world of
mankind, in this period; viz. the shortening of man’s life. It
was now brought down from being between nine hundred and a thousand
years, to about seventy or eighty. The life of man began to be
shortened immediately after the flood. It was brought down the first
generation to six hundred years, and the next to between four and
five hundred years. So the life of man gradually grew shorter and
shorter, till about the time of the great mortality which was in the
congregation of Israel, after they had murmured at the report of the
spies, and their carcasses fell in the wilderness, whereby all the men
of war died. Then the life of man was reduced to its present standard,
as Moses observes in that psalm which he wrote on occasion of that
Man’s life being cut so very short, tended to prepare the way for poor, short-lived men, the more joyfully to entertain the glad tidings of everlasting life, brought to light by the gospel; and more readily to embrace a Saviour, that purchases and offers such a blessing. If men’s lives were still commonly about nine hundred years, how much less would be the inducement to regard the proffers of a future life; how much greater the temptation to rest in the things of this world, and to neglect any other life but this! This probably contributed greatly to the wickedness of the 549antediluvians. But now how much greater motives have men to seek redemption, and a better life than this, by the great Redeemer, since the life of man is not one twelfth part of what it used to be, and men now universally die at the age when formerly they used to be but setting out in the world.
VIII. The same work was carried on in preserving that people, of whom Christ was to come, from totally perishing in the wilderness, by a constant miracle of forty years’ continuance. I observed before how God preserved those of whom the Redeemer was to proceed in a very wonderful manner; as Noah and his family from the flood; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with their families, from the wicked inhabitants of Canaan; and Jacob and his family from perishing by the famine, by Joseph in Egypt. But this preservation of Israel in the wilderness, was on some accounts more remarkable than any of them; for it was by a continual miracle of so long duration. There was, as may be fairly computed, at first two millions of souls in that congregation. But if miraculous support had been withheld, they must all have perished, in less than a month’s time, so that there would not have been one of them left. But yet this vast multitude subsisted for forty years together, in a dry barren wilderness, without sowing, reaping, or tillage. Their bread was daily rained down to them out of heaven, and they were furnished with water out of a rock; and the same clothes with which they came out of Egypt, lasted all that time. Never was any instance like this, of a nation being so upheld for so long a time together. Thus God upheld his church by a continual miracle, and kept alive that people in whom was the blessing, the great Redeemer of the world.
God was pleased, during this time, to give a further revelation of
Christ the Redeemer in the predictions of him. Three prophecies deserve
particular notice. The first is that of Balaam,
There are several things contained in this prophecy of Christ. Here is his mediatorial office in general,
The next prophecy respects the calling of the Gentiles, which should be after Christ’s coming,
Thus you see how the light of the gospel, which first began to dawn and glimmer immediately after the fall, gradually increases the nearer we come to Christ’s time.
Another thing by which God carried on this work in this time, was a
remarkable pouring out of his Spirit on the young generation in the
wilderness. The generation that was grown up when they came out of
Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, was a very froward and
perverse generation. They were tainted with the idolatry and wickedness
of Egypt, and were not weaned from it.
Those terrible judgments that were executed in the congregation after their turning back from Kadesh-Barnea, in the matter of Korah, and the matter of Peor, were chiefly on the old generation, whom God consumed in the wilderness. Those rebellions were chiefly among the elders of the congregation, who were given up to their hearts’ lust; and they walked in their own counsels, and God was grieved with their manners forty years in the wilderness.
this younger congregation were eminent for piety, appears by all their
history. The former generation were wicked, and were followed with
curses; but this was holy, and wonderful blessings followed them. God
did great things for them; he fought for them, and gave them the
possession of Canaan. And it is God’s manner, when he hath very great
mercies to bestow on a visible people, first, to fit them for such
mercies, and then to confer them. So it was here: they
believed in God, and by faith overcame Sihon and Og, and the giants of
Canaan; and are commended for cleaving to the Lord:
men of the former generation being dead, and God having sanctified this
to himself, he solemnly renewed his covenant with them, as we have a
particular account in
Thus God, at this time, gloriously advanced the work of redemption, both by his word and Spirit. Hereby the work of redemption was promoted, not only as it was in itself a glorious instance of redemption in its application, but as this was what God used for the orderly establishment of the Israelitish church, when it was first settled in the regular observance of God’s ordinances in Canaan: even as the pouring out of the Spirit, in the beginning of the christian church, was a great means for establishing the christian church in all succeeding ages.
The next thing I would observe, was God’s bringing the people of Israel
by Joshua, and settling them in that land where Christ was to be born,
and which was the great type of the heavenly Canaan, which Christ has
purchased. Joshua was of Joseph’s posterity, and was an eminent type of
Christ, and is therefore called the shepherd, the stone of Israel.
God wonderfully gave his people possession of this land, conquering its former inhabitants, and the mighty giants, as Christ conquered the devil. He first conquered the great kings on the eastern side of Jordan, Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan; and then divided the river Jordan, as before he had done the Red sea; causing the walls of Jericho to fall down at the sound of the trumpets of the priests. That sound typified the sound of the gospel by the preaching of gospel ministers, the walls of the accursed city Jericho, signifying the walls of Satan’s kingdom. After this he wonderfully destroyed the mighty host of the Amorites under the five kings, causing the sun and moon to stand still, to help the people against their enemies, at the prayer of the typical Jesus; plainly intimating, that God would make the whole course of nature to be subservient to the affair of redemption; and that every thing should give place to the welfare of God’s redeemed people.
Christ show his great love to his elect, that he would make the course
of nature to give place to their happiness and prosperity; and showed
that the sun and moon, and all things visible and invisible, were
theirs by his purchase. At the same time, Christ fought as the captain
of their host, and cast down great hailstones upon their enemies, by
which more were slain than by the sword of Israel. And after this
Christ gave the people a mighty victory over a yet
greater army in the northern part of the land, gathered together at the
waters of Merom, as the sand of the sea-shore,
Thus God gave the people whence Christ was to proceed, the land where he was to be born; where he was to live, preach, and work miracles; to die, and rise again; and whence he was to ascend into heaven, as the land which was a great type of heaven.
Another thing that God did towards carrying on this affair, was his
actually setting up his stated worship among the people, as it had been
before instituted in the wilderness. This worship was appointed at
mount Sinai; it was to make way for the coming of Christ; and the
innumerable ceremonial observances of it were typical of him and his
redemption. But there were many parts of their instituted worship that
could not be observed in the wilderness, by reason of
their unsettled state there. And there were many precepts that
respected the land of Canaan, and their places of habitation there;
which therefore could not be put in practice, till they came into that
land. But now, when this was brought to pass, God set up his tabernacle
in the midst of his people, as he had before promised them,
The next thing was God’s wonderfully preserving that people, from this
time forward, when all the males went up, three times in the year, to
the place where God’s ark was. The people of Israel were generally
surrounded with enemies, who sought all opportunities to destroy them,
and dispossess them of their land. Till David’s time, there were great
numbers in the land of the remains of the Canaanites, and the other
former inhabitants of the land, who were bitter
enemies to the people of Israel: and these had, three times in the
year, a fair opportunity of overrunning their country, and getting
possession of their cities, when only the women, and those who were not
able to go up, were left behind. And yet they were remarkably preserved
throughout all generations at such seasons, agreeably to the promise,
XIV. God’s preserving his church and the true religion from being wholly extinct in the frequent apostacies of the Israelites in the time of the judges. How prone was that people to forsake the true God, who had done such wonderful things for them, and to fall into idolatry! and how did the land, from time to time, seem to be almost overrun with it! But yet God never suffered his true worship to be totally rooted out: his tabernacle stood, the ark was preserved, the book of the law was kept from being destroyed, God’s priesthood was upheld, and he still had a church among the people. Time after time, when religion seemed to be almost gone, then God granted a revival, and sent some angel, or raised up some eminent person, to be an instrument of their reformation.
God’s preserving that nation from being destroyed, although they were
so often subdued and brought under the dominion of their enemies. It
was a wonder, not only that the true religion was not wholly rooted
out, and so the church destroyed that way; but also that the very
nation in which that church was, was not utterly destroyed; they were
so often brought under the power of their enemies. One while they were
subdued by Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia,
another while they were brought under the Moabites; now they were sold into the hand of
Jabin king of Canaan; then they were under the dominion of the
Midianites; now they were sorely distressed by the children of Ammon;
and then by the Philistines. But yet God, in all these dangers,
preserved them, and kept them from being wholly overthrown. From time
to time, when it was come to extremity, and God saw that they were upon
the very brink of ruin, then he raised up a deliverer, agreeable
It is observable, that when Christ appeared to manage the affairs of
his church in this period, he often appeared in the form of that nature
which he took upon him in his incarnation. So he seems to have appeared
repeatedly to Moses, and particularly at that time when God spake to
him face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend, and he beheld the
similitude of the Lord, (
So it was a human form in which Christ appeared to the seventy elders, of which we have an account,
Another thing I would mention, done in this period towards the work of
redemption, is the beginning of a succession of prophets, and erecting
a school of the prophets, in Samuel’s time. There was something of this
spirit of prophecy in Israel after Moses, before Samuel. Joshua and
many of the judges had a degree of it. Deborah was a prophetess; and
some of the high-priests were inspired with this spirit; particularly
Eli. That space of time was not wholly without
instances of those that were set apart of God especially to this
office, and so were called prophets. Such an one we read of
But there was no such order of men upheld in Israel, for any constancy, before Samuel; the want of it is taken notice of in
because God intended a constant succession of prophets from Samuel’s
time, therefore in his time was begun a school of the prophets; that
is, a school of young men, trained up under some great prophet, who was
their master and teacher in the study of divine things, and the
practice of holiness, to fit them for this office as God should call
them to it. Those young men were called the sons of the prophets; and oftentimes they are termed prophets.
These at first were under the tuition of Samuel. Thus we read of Samuel’s being appointed over them,
schools of the prophets being set up by Samuel, and afterwards kept up
by such as Elijah and Elisha, must be of divine appointment; and
accordingly we find, that those sons of the prophets were often
favoured with a degree of inspiration, while they continued under
tuition: and God commonly when he called any prophet to the constant
exercise of the prophetical office, and to some extraordinary service,
took them out of these schools; though not universally. Hence
the prophet Amos, speaking of his being called to the prophetical
office, says, that he had not been educated in the schools of the
prophets, and was not one of the sons of the prophets,
this remarkable dispensation of Providence—God beginning a constant
succession of prophets in Samuel’s time, which was to last for many
ages; and to that end establishing a school of the prophets under
Samuel, thenceforward to be continued in Israel—was a step that God
took in the great affair of redemption. For the main business of this
succession of prophets was, to foreshow Christ, and the glorious
redemption he was to accomplish, and so to prepare the way for
his coming; as appears by that fore-mentioned place,
Old-Testament church was not wholly without light, but had not the
light of the sun directly, only as reflected. Now these prophets were
the luminaries that reflected the light of the sun; and accordingly
they spoke abundantly of Jesus Christ, as appears by what we have of
their prophecies in writing. And they made it very much their business,
when they studied in their schools or colleges, and elsewhere, to
search out the work of redemption; agreeable to what the
apostle Peter says of them,
was the first thing of the nature that ever was done in the world; and
it was a great thing that God did towards further advancing this great
building of redemption. There had been before occasional prophecies of
Christ, as was shown; but now the time drawing nearer when the Redeemer
should come, it pleased God to appoint a certain order of men, in
constant succession, whose main business it should be, to point out
Christ and his redemption, and as his forerunners
to prepare the way for his coming; and God established schools, wherein
multitudes were instructed and trained up to that end,
PART V. From David to the Babylonish Captivity.
FROM DAVID TO THE BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY.
I come now to the fifth period of the times of the Old Testament, beginning with David, and extending to the Babylonish captivity; and would now proceed to show how the work of redemption was therein carried on.—And here,
I. The first thing to be noticed is God’s anointing that person who was to be the ancestor of Christ, to be king over his people. The dispensations of Providence through the last period, respect the people whence Christ was to proceed; but now the Scripture leads us to consider God’s providence towards that particular person whence Christ was lo descend, viz. David. It pleased God at this time remarkably to select out this person, from all the thousands of Israel, and to put a most honourable mark of distinction upon him, by anointing him to be king over his people. It was only God that could find him out. His father’s house is spoken of as being little in Israel, and he was the youngest of all the sons of his father, and was least expected by Samuel to be the man whom God had chosen. God had before, in the former ages of the world, remarkably distinguished the persons from whom Christ was to come; as Seth, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. But the last that we have any account of God’s marking out in any notable manner, the very person of whom Christ was to come, was in Jacob’s blessing, his son Judah; unless we reckon Nahshon’s advancement in the wilderness to be the head of the tribe of Judah. But this distinction of the person of whom Christ was to come, in David, was very honourable; for it was God’s anointing him to be king over his people. And there was something further denoted by David’s anointing, than was in the anointing of Saul. God anointed Saul to be king personally; but God intended something further by sending Samuel to anoint David, viz. to establish the crown of Israel in him and his family, as long as Israel continued to be a kingdom: and not only so, but what was infinitely more still, establishing the crown of his universal church, his spiritual Israel, in his seed, to the end of the world, and through eternity.
This was a
great dispensation of God, and a great step taken towards a further
advancing of the work of redemption, according as the time drew near
wherein Christ was to come. David, as he was the ancestor of Christ, so
he was the greatest personal type of Christ of all under the Old
Testament. The types of Christ were of three sorts; instituted,
providential, and personal. The ordinance of sacrificing was the greatest of the instituted types; the
redemption out of Egypt was the greatest of the providential; and David the greatest of the personal ones. Hence Christ is often called David in the prophecies of Scripture; as
David being the
ancestor and great type of Christ, his being solemnly anointed by God
to be king over his people, that the kingdom of his church might be
continued in his family for ever, may in some respects be looked on as
an anointing of Christ himself. Christ was as it were anointed in him;
and therefore Christ’s anointing and David’s anointing are spoken of
under one scripture,
beginning the kingdom of his church in the house of David, was, as it
were, a new establishing of the kingdom of Christ; the beginning of it
in a state of such visibility as it thenceforward continued in. It was
planting the root, whence that branch of righteousness was afterwards
to spring up, the everlasting king of his church; and therefore this
everlasting king is called the branch from the stem of Jesse.
It is observable, that God anointed David after Saul to reign in his room. He took away the crown from him and his family, who was higher in stature than any of his people, and was in their eyes fittest to bear rule; to give it to David, who was low of stature, and in comparison of despicable appearance. So God was pleased to show how Christ, who appeared despicable, without form or comeliness, and was despised and rejected of men, should take the kingdom from the great ones of the earth. And also it is observable, that David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons, as Jacob the younger brother supplanted Esau, and got the birthright and blessing from him; and as Pharez, brother of Christ’s ancestor, supplanted Zarah in the birth; and as Isaac, another of the ancestors of Christ, cast out his elder brother Ishmael: thus was that frequent saying of Christ fulfilled,” The last shall be first, and the first last.”
II. The next thing I would observe, is God’s preserving David’s life, by a series of wonderful providences, till Saul’s death. I before took notice of the wonderful preservation of other particular persons who were the ancestors of Christ; as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; and have observed how, in their preservation, the work of redemption itself may be looked upon as preserved from being defeated, and the whole church, which is redeemed through him, from being overthrown. But the preservation of David was no less remarkable than that of any others already noticed. How often was there but a step between him and death. The first instance of it we have in his encountering a lion and a bear, when they had caught a lamb out of his flock, which, without miraculous assistance, could at once have rent this young stripling in pieces, as easily as they could the lamb that he delivered from them. So the root and offspring of David was preserved from the roaring lion that goes about seeking whom he may devour, and conquered him, and rescued the souls of men, that were as lambs in the mouth of this lion. Another remarkable instance was, in preserving him from that mighty giant Goliath, who was strong enough to have torn him to pieces, and given his flesh to the beasts of the field, and to the fowls of the air, as he threatened. But God preserved him, and gave him the victory over Goliath, so that he cut off his head with his own sword, and thus was made the deliverer of Israel. So Christ slew the spiritual Goliath with his own weapon, the cross, and delivered his represented people. And how remarkably did God preserve David from being slain by Saul, when he first sought his life! He gave him his daughter to be a snare to him, that the hand of the Philistines might be upon him, requiring of him a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that so his life might be exposed to them. The same divine care was evident in preserving him afterwards, when Saul spake to Jonathan, and to all his servants, to kill David; and in inclining Jonathan, instead of his killing him, as his father commanded, to love him as his own soul, and to be a great instrument of his preservation, even so as to expose his own life to preserve David; though one would have thought that none would have been more willing to have David killed than Jonathan, seeing that he was competitor with him for the crown. Again, Saul threw a javelin at him, to smite him even to the wall; and sent messengers to his house, to watch, and to kill him, when Michal, Saul’s daughter, let him down through a window. He afterwards sent messengers once and again, to Naioth in Ramah, to take him, and they were remarkably prevented by miraculous impressions of the Spirit of God; and afterwards, when Saul, being resolute in the affair, went himself, he also was among the prophets. How wonderfully was David’s life preserved at Gath among the Philistines, when he went to Achish the king of Gath, and was there in the hands of the Philistines, who, one would have thought, would have despatched him at once, he having so much provoked them by his exploits against them. He was again wonderfully preserved at Keilah, when he had entered into a fenced town, where Saul thought he was sure of him. And how wonderfully was he preserved from Saul, when he pursued and hunted him in the mountains! How remarkably did God deliver him in the wilderness of Maon, when Saul and his army were compassing David about! How was he delivered in the cave of Engedi, when, instead of Saul’s killing David, God delivered Saul into his hands in the cave! David cut off his skirt, and might as easily have cut off his head. He was delivered in like manner in the wilderness of Ziph; and afterwards preserved in the land of the Philistines, though David had fought against the Philistines, and conquered them at Keilah, since he was last among them. This, one would think, would have been sufficient warning to them not to trust him, or let him escape a second time, if ever they had him in their hands again; but yet now, when they had a second opportunity, God wonderfully turned their hearts to befriend and protect, instead of destroying him.
Thus was the precious seed that virtually contained the Redeemer, and all the blessings of his redemption, wonderfully preserved, when hell and earth were conspired to destroy it. How often does David himself take notice of this, with praise and admiration, in the book of Psalms!
About this time, the written word of God, or the canon of Scripture,
was augmented by Samuel. I have before observed, that the canon of
Scripture was begun and the first written rule of faith and manners was
given to the church, about the time of Moses. Joshua probably enlarged
it, and wrote the last chapter of Deuteronomy, and most of the book of
Joshua. Others think that Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and part of the first
book of Samuel, were written by Samuel. However
that was, of this we have good evidence, that Samuel made an addition
to the canon of Scripture; for Samuel is manifestly mentioned in the
New Testament, as one of the prophets whose writings we have in
And the way that
Samuel spoke of these times of Christ and the gospel, was by giving the
history of those things that typified, and pointed to them,
particularly what he wrote concerning David. The Spirit of God moved
him to commit those things to writing, chiefly because they pointed to
Christ, and the times of the gospel; and, as was said before, this was
the main business of all that succession of prophets that began in
Samuel. That Samuel added to the canon of the
Scriptures seems further to appear from
the book of Joshua was written by Samuel or not, yet it is the general
opinion of divines, that the books of Judges and Ruth, and part of the
first book of Samuel, were penned by him. The book of Ruth was penned
for this reason, that though it seemed to treat of private affairs, yet
the persons chiefly spoken of were of the family whence David and
Christ proceeded, and so pointed to what the apostle Peter observed of
Samuel and the other prophets, in the
Another thing God did towards this work, at that time, was his
inspiring David to show forth Christ and his redemption, in divine
songs, which should be for the use of the church, in public worship,
throughout all ages. David was himself endued with the spirit of
prophecy. He is called a prophet,
oil that was used in anointing David was a type of the Spirit of God;
and the type and the antetype were given both together; as we are told,
This was a great advancement that God made in this building; and the light of the gospel, which had been gradually growing, was exceedingly increased by it: for whereas before there was but here and there a prophecy given of Christ in a great many ages, here Christ is spoken of by his ancestor David abundantly, in multitudes of songs, speaking of his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, his satisfaction, intercession; his prophetical, kingly, and priestly office; his glorious benefits in this life and that which is to come; his union with the church, and the blessedness of the church in him; the calling of the Gentiles, the future glory of the church near the end of the world, and Christ’s coming to the final judgment. All these things, and many more, concerning Christ and his redemption, are abundantly spoken of in the book of Psalms.
was also a glorious advancement of the affair of redemption, as God
hereby gave his church a book of divine songs for their use in that
part of their public worship, viz. singing his praises,
throughout all ages to the end of the world. It is manifest the book of
Psalms was given of God for this end. It was used in the church of
Israel by God’s appointment: this is manifest by the title of many of
the Psalms, in which they are inscribed to the chief
musician, i.e. to the man that was appointed to be the leader
of divine songs in the temple, in the public worship of Israel. So
David is called the sweet psalmist of Israel, because he penned
psalms for the use of the church of Israel; and accordingly we have an
account that they were actually made use of in the church of Israel for
that end, even ages after David was dead; as
The next thing I would notice, is God’s actually exalting David to the
throne of Israel, notwithstanding all the opposition made to it. God
was determined to do it, and he made every thing give place that stood
in its way. He removed Saul and his sons out of the way; and first set
David over the tribe of Judah; then, having removed Ishbosheth, set him
over all Israel. Thus did God fulfil his word to David. He took him
from the sheep-cote, and made him king over his
Now first it was that God proceeded to choose a particular city out of
all the tribes of Israel to place his name. There is several times
mention made in the law of Moses, of the children of Israel bringing
their oblations to the place which God should choose; as
This city of Jerusalem is therefore called the holy city;
and it was the greatest type of the church of Christ in all the Old
Testament. It was redeemed by David, the captain of the hosts of
Israel, out of the hands of the Jebusites, to be God’s city, the holy
place of his rest for ever, where he would dwell. So Christ, the
Captain of his people’s salvation, redeems his church out of the hands
of devils, to be his holy and beloved city. And therefore how often
does the Scripture, when speaking of Christ’s redemption of his church,
call it by the names of Zion and Jerusalem! This was the city that God
had appointed to be the place of the first gathering and erecting of
the christian church after Christ s resurrection, of that remarkable
effusion of the Spirit of God on the apostles and primitive Christians,
and the place whence the gospel was to sound forth into all the world;
the place of the first christian church, that was to be, as it were,
mother of all other churches through the world; agreeable to that
The next thing to be observed here, is God’s solemnly renewing the
covenant of grace with David, and promising that the Messiah should be
of his seed. We have an account of it in the 7th chapter of the second
book of Samuel. It was done on occasion of the thoughts David
entertained of building God a house. On this occasion God sends Nathan
the prophet to him, with the glorious promises of the covenant of
grace. It is especially contained in these words,
this covenant, now established with David by Nathan the prophet, was
the covenant of grace, is evident by the plain testimony of Scripture,
This was the fifth solemn establishment of the covenant of grace with the church after the fall. The covenant of grace was revealed and established all along. But there had been particular seasons, wherein God had in a very solemn manner renewed this covenant with his church, giving forth a new edition and establishment of it, revealing it in a new manner. The first was with Adam; the second with Noah; the third with the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the fourth was in the wilderness by Moses; and now the fifth is made to David.
establishment of the covenant of grace, David always esteemed the
greatest smile of God upon him, the greatest honour put upon him; he
prized it, and rejoiced in it above all the other blessings of his
reign. You may see how joyfully and thankfully he received it, when
Nathan came to him with the glorious message,
VIII. It was by David that God first gave his people Israel the possession of the whole promised land. I have before shown, how God giving possession of the promised land belonged to the covenant of grace. This was done in a great measure by Joshua, but not fully. Joshua did not wholly subdue that part of the promised land that was strictly called the land of Canaan, and that was divided by lot to the several tribes; but there were great numbers of the old inhabitants left unsubdued, as we read in the books of Joshua and Judges; and there were many left to prove Israel, and to be as thorns in their sides. There were the Jebusites in Jerusalem, and many of the Canaanites, and the whole nation of the Philistines, who all dwelt in that part of the land that was divided by lot, and chiefly in that which belonged to the tribes of Judah and Ephraim.
thus these remains of the old inhabitants of Canaan continued unsubdued
till David’s time; but he wholly subdued them all. Which is agreeable
to what St. Stephen observes,
After this, all
the remains of the former inhabitants of Canaan were made bond-servants
to the Israelites. The posterity of the Gibeonites became servants
before, hewers of wood, and drawers of water, for the house of God. But
Solomon, David’s son and successor, put all the other remains of the
seven nations of Canaan to bond-service; at least made them pay a
tribute of bond-service,
David subdued the whole land of Canaan, strictly so called. But then
that was not one half, nor quarter, of the land God had promised to
their fathers. The land often promised to their fathers, included all
the countries from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates. These
were the bounds of the land promised to Abraham,
large country did not only include that Canaan which was divided by lot
to those who came in with Joshua, but the land of the Moabites and
Ammonites, the land of the Amalekites, and the rest of the Edomites,
and the country of Zobah. All these nations were subdued and brought
under the children of Israel by David. And he put garrisons in the
several countries, and they became David’s servants, as we have a
particular account in the 8th chapter of 2d Samuel: and
David extended their border to the river Euphrates, as was promised;
see the 3d verse:
Joshua, that eminent type of Christ, did but begin the work of giving
Israel the possession of the promised land; but left it to be finished
by that much greater type and ancestor of Christ, even David, who
subdued far more of that land than ever Joshua had done. And in this
extent of his and Solomon’s dominion was some resemblance of the great
extent of Christ’s kingdom; which is set forth by this very thing,
IX. God by David perfected the Jewish worship, and added to it several new institutions. The law was given by Moses, but yet all the institutions of the Jewish worship were not given by Moses; some were added by divine direction. So this greatest of all personal types of Christ did not only perfect Joshua’s work, in giving Israel the possession of the promised land, but he also finished Moses’s work, in perfecting the instituted worship of Israel. Thus there must be a number of typical prophets, priests, and princes, to complete one figure or shadow of Christ the antetype, he being the substance of all the types and shadows. Of so much more glory was Christ accounted worthy, than Moses, Joshua, David, and Solomon, and all the great prophets, priests, and princes, judges, and saviours of the Old Testament put together.
The ordinances of David are mentioned as of parallel validity with those of Moses,
David as well as Moses was made like to Christ the Son of David, in
this respect, that by him God gave, in a manner, a new ecclesiastical
establishment, and new institutions of worship. David did not only add
to the institutions of Moses, but by those additions he abolished some
of the old institutions that had been in force till that time;
particularly those laws which appointed the business of the Levites,
which we have in the 3d and 4th chapters of Numbers,
which very much consisted in their charge of the several parts and
utensils of the tabernacle. But those laws were now abolished; and they
were no more to carry those things, as they had been used to do. But
David appointed them to other work instead of it;
by God’s appointment, abolished all use of the tabernacle built by
Moses, and of which he had the pattern, from God: for God now revealed
it to David to be his will, that a temple should be built instead of
the tabernacle. This was a great presage of what Christ, the Son of
David, would do when he should come, viz. abolish the whole
Jewish ecclesiastical constitution, which was but as a movable
tabernacle, to set up the spiritual gospel-temple, which was
to be far more glorious, of greater extent, and was to last for ever.
David had the pattern of all things pertaining to the temple showed
him, even in like manner as Moses had the pattern of the tabernacle:
and Solomon built the temple according to that pattern which he had
from his father David, which he received from God.
X. The canon of Scripture
seems at or after the close of David’s reign to be added to by the
prophets Nathan and Gad. It appears probable by the Scriptures, that
they carried on the history of the two books of Samuel from the place
where Samuel left it, and finished them. These seem to be called the book of Samuel the seer, and Nathan the prophet, and God the seer,
XI. The next thing I would notice, is God’s wonderfully continuing the kingdom of his visible people in the line of Christ’s legal ancestors, as long as they remained an independent kingdom. Thus it was without any interruption worth notice. Indeed the kingdom of all the tribes of Israel was not kept in that line; but the dominion of that part in which the true worship of God was upheld, who were God’s visible people, was always kept in the family of David, as long as there was any such thing as an independent king of Israel; according to his promise to David; and not only in the family of David, but always in that part of David’s posterity whence Christ was legally descended. So that Christ’s legal ancestor was always on the throne, excepting Jehoahaz, who reigned three months, and Zedekiah; as you may see in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ.
Christ was legally descended from the kings of Judah, though not naturally. He was both legally and naturally descended from David He was naturally descended from Nathan the son of David; for Mary his mother was one of the posterity of David by Nathan, as you may see in Luke’s genealogy: but Joseph, the reputed and legal father of Christ, was naturally descended of Solomon and his successors, as we have an account in Matthew’s genealogy. Jesus Christ, though he was not the natural son of Joseph, yet by the law and constitution of the Jews, was Joseph’s heir; because he was the lawful son of Joseph’s lawful life, conceived while she was his legally espoused wife. The Holy Ghost raised up seed to him. A person, by the law of Moses, might be the legal son and heir of another, whose natural son he was not; as sometimes a man raised up seed to his brother. a brother, in some cases, was to build up a brother’s house; so the Holy Ghost built up Joseph’s house. Joseph being in the direct line of the kings of Judah, of the house of David, he was in this respect the legal heir of the crown of David; and Christ being legally his first-born son, he was his heir; and so Christ, by the law, was the proper heir of the crown of David, and is therefore said to sit upon the throne of his father David.
The crown of God’s people was wonderfully kept in the line of Christ’s legal ancestors. When David was old, and not able any longer to manage the affairs of the kingdom, Adonijah, one of his sons, set up to be king, and seemed to have obtained his purpose. All things for a while seemed fair on his side, and he thought himself strong. But Adonijah was not the ancestor of Joseph, the legal father of Christ; and therefore how wonderfully did Providence work here! what a strange and sudden revolution! All Adonijah’s kingdom and glory vanished away as soon as it was begun; and Solomon, the legal ancestor of Christ, was established in the throne.
after Solomon’s death, when Jeroboam had conspired against the family,
and Rehoboam carried himself in such a manner that it was a wonder all Israel was
not provoked to forsake him, (as ten tribes actually did,) and set up
Jeroboam in opposition to him; and though he was a wicked man, and
deserved to have been rejected altogether from being king; yet he being
the legal ancestor of Christ, God kept the kingdom of the two tribes,
in which the true religion was
upheld, in his possession. And though his son Abijam was another wicked
prince; yet God still continued the crown in the family, and gave it to
Abijam’s son, Asa. And afterwards, though many of the kings of Judah
were very wicked men, and horribly provoked God, as particularly
Jehoram, Ahaziah, Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon; yet God did not take away
the crown from their family, but gave it to their sons, because they
were the ancestors of Christ. God’s remembering his covenant
David, is given as the reason why God did thus, notwithstanding their
The crown of the ten tribes was changed from one family to another continually. First, Jeroboam took it; but the crown descended only to his son Nadab. Then Baasha, who was of another family, took it; and it remained in his posterity but one generation after his death. And then Zimri, who was his servant, and not of his posterity, took it; from whom Omri, who was of another family, took it. The crown continued in his family for three successions: and then Jehu, who was of another family, took it. The crown continued in his family for three or four successions; and then Shallum, that was of another family, took it. The crown did not descend at all to his posterity; but Menahem, who was of another family, took it; and it remained in his family but one generation after him. Then Pekah, who was of another family, took it: and after him Hoshea, that was still of another family, took it. So great a difference was there between the crown of Israel and the crown of Judah; the one was continued evermore in the same family, and with very little interruption, in one right line; the other was continually tossed about from one family to another, as if it were the sport of fortune. The reason was not, because the kings of Judah, at least many of them, were better than the kings of Israel; but the one had the blessing in them; they were the ancestors of Christ, whose right it was to sit on the throne of Israel. But with the kings of Israel it was not so; and therefore Divine Providence exercised a continual care, through all the changes that happened through so many generations, and such a long space of time, to keep the crown of Judah in one direct line, in fulfilment of the everlasting covenant he had made with David, the mercies of which covenant were sure mercies; but in the other case there was no such covenant, and so no such interposing care of Providence.
here it must not he omitted, that there was once a very strong
conspiracy of the kings of Syria and Israel, in the time of that wicked
king of Judah, Ahaz, to dispossess him and his family of the throne of
Judah, and to set one of another family, even the son of Tabeal, on it;
XII. The building of the temple was a great type of three things, viz.
of Christ, especially his human nature; of the church; and of heaven.
The tabernacle seemed rather to represent the church in its movable,
changeable state, in this world. But that beautiful, glorious, costly
structure, the temple, that succeeded the tabernacle, seems especially
to represent the church in its glorified state in heaven. This temple
was built according to the direction and the
pattern shown by the Holy Ghost to David, in the place where was the
threshing-floor of Oman the Jebusite, in mount Moriah,
It is here worthy to be observed, that in Solomon’s reign, after the
temple was finished, the Jewish church was risen to its highest
external glory. The Jewish church, as to its ordinances and
constitution, is compared to the moon,
Now the church
of Israel was in its highest external glory. Now Israel was multiplied
exceedingly, so that they seemed to have become like the sand on the
Thus God was pleased, in one of Messiah’s ancestors, remarkably to shadow forth the kingdom of Christ and himself reigning in his glory. David, a man of war, a man who had shed much blood, and whose life was full of troubles and conflicts, was a more suitable representation of Christ in his state of humiliation, wherein he was conflicting with his enemies. But Solomon, a man of peace, was a representation more especially of Christ exalted, triumphing and reigning in his kingdom of peace. And the happy glorious state of the Jewish church at that time, remarkably represented two things:—1. A glorious state 558of the church on earth, in the latter ages of the world; those days of peace, when nation shall not lift sword against nation, nor learn war any more. 2. The future glorified state of the church in heaven. The earthly Canaan never was so lively a type of the heavenly Canaan as it was then, when the happy people of Israel indeed enjoyed it as a land flowing with milk and honey.
XIV. After this the glory of the Jewish church gradually declined more and more till Christ came; yet the work of redemption went on. Whatever failed or declined, God still carried on this work from age to age; this building was advancing higher and higher. It went on, even during the decline of the Jewish church, towards a further preparation of things for the coming of Christ, as well as during its increase; for so wonderfully were things ordered by the infinitely wise Governor of the world, that whatever happened was ordered for good to this general design, and made a means of promoting it. When the Jews flourished, and were in prosperity, he made that to contribute to the promoting of this design; and when they were in adversity, God made this also contribute to the same. While the Jewish church was in its increasing state, the work of redemption was carried on by their increase; and when they came to their declining state, from Solomon’s time till Christ, God carried on the work of redemption by that. The very decline itself, was one thing that God employed as a further preparation for Christ’s coming.
As the moon, from the time of its full, is approaching nearer and nearer to her conjunction with the sun; so her light is still more and more decreasing, till at length, when the conjunction comes, it is wholly swallowed up in the light of the sun. So it was with the Jewish church from the time of its highest glory in Solomon’s time. In the latter end of Solomon’s reign, the state of things began to darken, by his corrupting himself with idolatry, which much obscured the glory of this mighty and wise prince; and troubles also began to arise in his kingdom. After his death the kingdom was divided, and ten tribes revolted, and withdrew their subjection from the house of David, apostatizing also from the true worship of God in the temple at Jerusalem, and setting up the golden calves of Bethel and Dan. And presently after this the number of the ten tribes was greatly diminished in the battle of Jeroboam with Abijah, wherein there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men; which loss the kingdom of Israel probably never in any measure recovered.
ten tribes finally apostatized from the true God under Jeroboam. The
kingdom of Judah was greatly corrupted, and from that time forward more
generally in a corrupt state than otherwise. In Ahab’s time the kingdom
of Israel did not only worship the calves of Bethel and Dan, but the
worship of Baal was introduced. Before, they pretended to worship the
true God by these images, the calves of Jeroboam; but now Ahab
introduced gross idolatry, and the direct worship of
false gods in the room of the true God; and soon after, the worship of
Baal was introduced into the kingdom of Judah, viz.
in Jehoram’s reign, by his marrying Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab.
After this God began to cut Israel short, by finally destroying and
sending into captivity that part which was beyond Jordan,
God, by this gradual decline of the Jewish state and church from Solomon’s time, prepared the way for the coming of Christ several ways.
The decline of the glory of this legal dispensation, made way for the
introduction of the more glorious dispensation of the gospel. The
evangelical dispensation was so much more glorious, that the legal
dispensation had no glory in comparison with it. The ancient
dispensation, even as it was in Solomon’s time, was but an inferior
glory, compared with the spiritual glory of the dispensation introduced
by Christ. The church, under the Old Testament, was a child under
tutors and governors, and God dealt with it accordingly. Those pompous
externals are called by the apostle, weak and beggarly elements.
It was fit that those things should be diminished as Christ approached;
as John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, speaking of Christ,
2. This gradual decline of the glory in the Jewish state, tended to make the glory of God’s power, in the great effects of Christ’s redemption, the more conspicuous. God’s people being so diminished and weakened by one step after another, till Christ came, was very much like the diminishing of Gideon’s army. God told Gideon, that the people with him were too many for the conquest of the Midianites, lest Israel should vaunt itself, saying, “My own hand hath saved me.  “ And therefore all that were fearful were commanded to return; and there returned twenty and two thousand, and there remained ten thousand. But still they were too many; and then, by trying the people at the water, they were reduced to three hundred men. So the people in Solomon’s time were too many, and mighty, and glorious for Christ; therefore he diminished them; first, by sending off the ten tribes; then he diminished them by the captivity into Babylon; and then they were further diminished by their great and general corruption when Christ came; so that Christ found very few godly persons among them. With a small handful of disciples, Christ conquered the world. Thus high things were brought down, that Christ might be exalted.
This prepared the way for Christ’s coming, as it made the salvation of
those Jews who were saved by Christ to he more sensible and visible.
Though the greater part of the Jewish nation was rejected, and the
Gentiles called in their room; yet a great many thousands of the Jews
were saved by Christ after his resurrection,
I would here take notice of the additions which were made to the canon
of Scripture in or soon after the reign of Solomon. There were
considerable additions made by Solomon himself, who wrote the books of
Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, probably near the close of his reign. His
Song of Songs, as it is called, is wholly on the subject we are upon, viz.
Christ and his redemption, representing the high and glorious relation,
union, and love, that is between Christ
and his redeemed church. And the sacred history seems, in Solomon’s
reign, and some of the next succeeding, to have been enlarged by the
prophets Nathan and Ahijah, Shemaiah and Iddo. It is probable that part
of the history which we have in the first of Kings, was written by
XVI. God wonderfully upheld his church and the true religion through this period. It was very wonderful, considering the many and great apostacies of that people to idolatry. When the ten tribes had generally and finally forsaken the true worship, God kept up the true religion in the kingdom of Judah; and when they corrupted themselves, as they very often did exceedingly, and idolatry was 559 ready totally to swallow up all, yet God kept the lamp alive. When things seemed to be come to an extremity, and religion at its last gasp, he was often pleased to grant blessed revivals by remarkable outpourings of his Spirit, particularly in Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s time.
God remarkably kept the book of the law from being lost in times of
general and long-continued neglect of it. The most remarkable instance
of this kind was its preservation in the time of the great apostacy,
during the greatest part of the long reign of Manasseh, which lasted
fifty-five years, and the reign of Amon his son. This while the law was
so much neglected, and such a careless and profane management of the
affairs of the temple prevailed, that the book
which used to be laid up by the side of the ark in the Holy of Holies,
was lost for a long time; and nobody knew where it was. But yet God
preserved it from being finally lost. In Josiah’s time, when they came
to repair the temple, it was found buried in rubbish. It had been lost
so long that Josiah himself seems to have been much a stranger to it.
God remarkably preserved the tribe of which Christ was to proceed, from
being mined through the many and great dangers of this period. The
visible church of Christ from Solomon’s reign was mainly in the tribe
of Judah. The tribe of Benjamin, which was annexed to them, was but a
very small tribe, and that of Judah exceeding large; and as Judah took
Benjamin under his protection when he went into Egypt to bring corn, so
the tribe of Benjamin seemed to be under the
covert of Judah ever after. And though, on occasion of Jeroboam’s
setting up the calves at Bethel and Dan, the Levites resorted to Judah
out of all the tribes of Israel, (
was the tribe of which Christ was to come; and in this chiefly did
God’s visible church consist, from Solomon’s time. This people, over
whom the kings who were legal ancestors of Christ, and of the house of
David, reigned, was wonderfully preserved from destruction during this
period, when they often seemed to be upon the brink of ruin, and just
ready to be swallowed up. So it was in Rehoboam s time, when Shishak
king of Egypt came against Judah with a vast force.
Of this we read in the beginning of
again it was in Jehoshaphat’s time, when the children of Moab, and the
children of Ammon, and the inhabitants of mount Seir, combined together
against Judah with a mighty army, a force vastly superior to any that
Jehoshaphat could raise; and Jehoshaphat and his people were greatly
afraid: yet they set themselves to seek God on this occasion, and
trusted in him; and God told them by one of his prophets, that they
need not fear them, nor should they have any occasion
to fight in this battle, they should only stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.
And according to his direction, they only stood still, and sang praises
to God; and God made their enemies do the work themselves, by killing
one another; and the children of Judah had nothing to do, but to gather
the spoil, which was more than they could carry away. (
it was again in Ahaz’s time, when Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah
the son of Remaliah, the king of Israel, conspired against Judah, and
seemed to be sure of their purpose; of which we have spoken already. So
it was again in Hezekiah’s time, when Sennacherib, that great king of
Assyria, and head of the greatest monarchy then in the world, came up
against all the fenced cities of Judah, after he had conquered most of
the neighbouring countries. He sent Rabshakeh,
the captain of his host, against Jerusalem, who in a very proud and
scornful manner insulted Hezekiah and his people, as being sure of
victory; and the people were trembling for fear, like lambs before a
lion. Then God sent Isaiah the prophet to comfort them, and assure them
that their enemies should not prevail; as a token of which he gave them
this sign, viz.
that the earth, for two years successively, should bring forth food of
itself, from the roots of the old stalks, without their
ploughing or sowing; and then the third year they should sow and reap,
and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them, and live on the fruits
of their labour, as they were wont to do before. (See
In the reign of Uzziah, and the following reigns, God was pleased to
raise up a set of eminent prophets, who should commit their prophecies
to writing, and leave them for the use of his church in all ages. We
before observed, how that God began a constant succession of prophets
in Israel in Samuel’s time, and many of these prophets wrote by divine
inspiration, and so added to the canon of Scripture. But none of them
are supposed to have written books of
prophecies till now. Several of them wrote histories
of the wonderful dispensations of God towards his church. This we have
observed already of Samuel, who is supposed to have written Judges and
Ruth, and part of the first of Samuel, if not the book of Joshua. And
Nathan and Gad seem to have written the rest of the two books of
Samuel: and Nathan, with Ahijah and Iddo, wrote the history of Solomon,
which is probably that which we have in the first book of Kings. The
history of Israel
seems to have been further carried on by Iddo and Shemaiah:
the prophets, even from Samuel’s time, had been adding to the canon of
Scripture by their historical writings. But now, in the days of Uzziah,
did God first raise up a set of great prophets, not only to write
histories, but to write books of their prophecies. The first of these
is thought to be Hosea the son of Beeri, and therefore his prophecy, or
the word of the Lord by him, is called the beginning of the word the Lord;
was a great dispensation of Providence, and a great ‘advance made in
the affair of redemption, which will appear, if we consider, that the
main business of the prophets was to point out Christ and his
redemption. They were all forerunners of the great prophet. The main
end why the spirit of prophecy was given them was, that they might give
testimony to Jesus Christ, the great Redeemer, who was to come.
Therefore, the testimony of Jesus, and the spirit of prophecy,
are spoken of as the same thing;
prophets, inspired by the Spirit of Christ, wrote chiefly to prepare
the way for his coming, and to exhibit the glory that should follow.
And in what an exalted strain do they all speak of those things! Many
other things they speak of in men’s usual language. But when they enter
upon this subject, what a joyful heavenly sublimity is there in their
language! Some of them are very particular and full in their
predictions of these things, and above all the prophet
Isaiah, who is therefore deservedly called the evangelical prophet.
He seems to teach the glorious doctrines of the gospel almost as
plainly as the apostles did. The apostle Paul therefore takes notice,
that the prophet Esaias is very bold,
plainly and fully does the prophet Isaiah describe the manner and
circumstances, the nature and end, of the sufferings and sacrifice of
And if we consider the abundant prophecies of this and the other prophets, what a great increase is there of gospel light! How plentiful are the revelations and prophecies of Christ, compared with what they were in the first period of the Old Testament, from Adam to Noah; or to what they were in the second, from Noah to Abraham; or to what they were before Moses, or in the time of Moses, Joshua, and the Judges! This dispensation was also a glorious advance of the work of redemption by the great additions that were made to the canon of scripture. Great part of the Old Testament was written now from the days of Uzziah to the captivity into Babylon. And how excellent are those portions of it! What a precious treasure have those prophets committed to the church of God, tending greatly to confirm the gospel of Christ! and which has been of great comfort and benefit to God’s church in all ages since, and doubtless will be to the end of the world.
PART VI. From the Captivity to Christ.
FROM THE BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY TO THE COMING OF CHRIST.
I come now to the last subordinate period of the Old Testament, viz. that which begins with the Babylonish captivity, and extends to the coming of Christ, being near six hundred years; and shall endeavour to show how the work of redemption was carried on through this period.—But before I enter upon particulars, I would observe three things wherein this period is distinguished from the preceding ones.
1. Though we have no account of a great part of this period in the scripture history, yet the events of it are more the subject of scripture prophecy, than any of the preceding periods. There are two ways wherein the Scriptures give account of the events by which the work of redemption is carried on; one is by history, and another is by prophecy; and in one or the other of these ways we have in the Scriptures an account how the work of redemption is carried on from the beginning to the end. Although the Scriptures do not contain a proper history of the whole, yet the whole chain of great events, by which this affair hath been carried on from the commencement to the finishing of it, is found either in history or prophecy. And it is to be observed, that where the Scripture is wanting in one of these ways, it is made up in the other. Where scripture history fails, there prophecy takes place; so that the account is still carried on, and the chain is not broken, till we come to the very last link of it in the consummation of all things.
And accordingly it is observable of this space of time, that though it is so much less the subject of scripture history, than most of the preceding periods, (there being above four hundred years of which the Scriptures give us no history,) yet its events are more the subject of prophecy, than those of all the preceding periods put together. Most of those remarkable prophecies of the book of Daniel, and most of those in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, against Babylon, Tyrus, Egypt, and many other nations, were fulfilled in this period.
Hence the reason why the Scriptures give us no history of so great a part of this time, is not because the events were not so important, or less worthy of notice, than those of the foregoing periods; for they were great and remarkable. But there are several reasons which may be given for it. One is, that it was the will of God that the spirit of prophecy should cease in this period, (for reasons that may be given hereafter,) so that there were no prophets to write the history of these times; and therefore God designing this, took care that the great events of this period should not be without mention in his word. It is 561 observable, that the writing prophets in Israel, were raised up at the latter end of the foregoing period, and at the beginning of this; for the time was now approaching, when, the spirit of prophecy having ceased, there was to be no inspired history, and therefore no other scripture account but what was given in prophecy.
Another reason may be, for the suspension of inspired history, that God in his providence took care, that there should be authentic and full accounts of the events of this period preserved in profane history. It is very worthy of notice, that with respect to the events of the five preceding subordinate periods, of which the Scriptures give the history, profane history gives us no account, or at least of but very few of them. There are many fabulous and uncertain accounts of things that happened before; but the commencement of authentic profane history is judged to be but about a hundred years before Nebuchadnezzar’s time. The learned Greeks and Romans used to call the ages before that the fabulous age; but the times after that they called the historical age. And from about that time to the coming of Christ, we have undoubted accounts in profane history of the principal events; accounts that wonderfully agree with the many prophecies that relate to those times.
Thus the great God, who disposes all things, took care to give an historical account of things from the beginning of the world, through all those former ages concerning which profane history is silent; and ceased not till he came to those ages in which profane history related things with some certainty. And concerning those times he gives us abundant account in prophecy, that by comparing profane history with those prophecies, we might see the agreement.
2. This last period of the
Old Testament seems to have been remarkably distinguished from all
others by great revolutions among the nations of the earth, to make way
for the kingdom of Christ. The time now drawing nigh wherein Christ,
the great King and Saviour of the world, was to come, great and mighty
were the changes that were brought to pass in order to it. The way had
been preparing for the coming of Christ from the fall of man, through
all the foregoing periods;
but now, the time drawing nigh, things began to ripen apace for his
coming; and therefore Divine Providence now wrought wonderfully. The
greatest revolutions that any history has recorded, since the flood,
fell out in this period. Almost all the nations far and near, within
the knowledge of the Jews, were overturned again and again. All lands
were in their turn subdued, captivated, and as it were emptied, and
turned upside down, and that most of them repeatedly, in this period;
began with God’s visible church, in their captivity by the king of
Babylon. And then the cup from them went round to all other nations,
agreeable to what God revealed to the prophet
several monarchies, and the great revolutions of the world under them,
are abundantly spoken of in the prophecies of Daniel. They are
represented in Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold, silver, brass, and iron,
and Daniel’s interpretation of it, (
these four general overturnings, the world was kept in a constant
tumult between whiles; and indeed in a continual convulsion through
this whole period. Before, the face of the earth was comparatively in
quietness; though there were many great wars among the nations, yet we
read of no such mighty and universal convulsions and overturnings as
there were in this period. The nations of the world, most of them, had
long remained on their lees, without being emptied
from vessel to vessel, as is said of Moab,
It must be noted, that the prophet Ezekiel prophesied in the time of the Babylonish captivity; and therefore there were three great and general overturnings to come after this prophecy, before Christ came; the first by the Persians, the second by the Grecians, the third by the Romans; and then Christ, whose right it was to take the diadem, and reign, should come. Here these great overturnings are evidently spoken of as preparatory to the coming and kingdom of Christ. But to understand the words aright, we must note the particular expression, ” I will overturn, overturn, overturn it,“ i.e. the diadem and crown of Israel, or the supreme temporal dominion over God’s visible people. This God said should be no more, i.e. the crown should be taken off, and the diadem removed, as it is said in the foregoing verse. The supreme power over Israel should be no more in the royal line of David, to which it properly belonged, but should be removed away, and given to others, and overturned from one to another: first the supreme power over Israel should be in the hands of the Persians; then it should be overturned, and be in the hands of the Grecians; and then it should be overturned again, and come into the hands of the Romans, and be no more in the line of David, till that very person should come, who was the Son of David, whose proper right it was, and then God would give it to him.
those great shakings and revolutions of the nations of the world, were
all to prepare the way for Christ’s coming, and setting up his kingdom
in the world, is further manifest by
The great changes and troubles that have sometimes been in the visible church of Christ, (
It pleased God to order it in his providence, that earthly power and dominion should be raised to its greatest height, and appear in its utmost glory, in those four great monarchies that succeeded one another, and that every one should be greater and more glorious than the preceding, before he set up the kingdom of his Son. By this it appeared how much more glorious his spiritual kingdom was than the most glorious temporal kingdom. The strength and glory of Satan’s kingdom in these four mighty monarchies, appeared in its greatest height: for, being the monarchies of the heathen world, the strength of them was the strength of Satan’s kingdom. God suffered Satan’s kingdom to rise to so great a height of power and magnificence before his Son came to overthrow it, in order to prepare the way for the more glorious triumph of his Son. Goliath must have on all his splendid armour when the stripling David comes against him with a sling and a stone, for the greater glory of David’s victory. God suffered one of those great monarchies to subdue another, and erect itself on the other’s ruins, appearing still in greater strength, and the last to be strongest and mightiest of all; that so Christ, in overthrowing that, might as it were overthrow them all at once. The stone cut out of the mountain without hands, is represented as destroying the whole image, the gold, the silver, the brass, the iron, and the clay; so that all became as the chaff of the summer threshing-floor.
mighty empires were suffered thus to overthrow the world, and destroy
one another. And though their power was so great, yet they could not
uphold themselves, but fell one after another, and came to nothing;
even the last of them, which was the strongest, and had swallowed up
the earth. It pleased God thus to show in them the instability and
vanity of all earthly power and greatness; which served as a foil to
set forth the glory of the kingdom of his Son, which
never shall be destroyed,
3. Another thing for which this last space of time before Christ was particularly remarkable, was the wonderful preservation of the church through all those overturnings. The preservation of the church was on some accounts more remarkable through this period, than through any of the foregoing. It was very wonderful that the church, which now was so weak, and in so low a state, and mostly subject to the dominion of heathen monarchies, should be preserved for five or six hundred years together, while the world was so often overturned, and the earth was rent in pieces, and made so often empty and waste, and the inhabitants of it came down so often every one by the sword of his brother. I say, it was wonderful that the church in its weak and low state, being but a little handful of men, should be preserved in all these great convulsions; especially considering that the land of Judea, the chief place of the church’s residence, lay in the midst of the contending parties, was very much the seat of war amongst them, and was often overrun and subdued. It was sometimes in the hands of one people, and sometimes another, and very much the object of the envy and hatred of all heathen nations. It was often almost ruined by them, often great multitudes of its inhabitants being slain, and the land in a great measure depopulated; and those who had them in their power, often intended the utter destruction of the whole nation. Yet they were upheld; they were preserved in their captivity in Babylon, in all the dangers they passed through under the kings of Persia, in the much greater dangers under the empire of the Greeks, and afterwards when the world was trodden down by the Romans.
preservation through this period was also peculiarly remarkable, in
that we never read of the church suffering persecution in any former
period in any measure to such a degree as they did in this, under
Antiochus Epiphanes, of which more afterwards. This wonderful
preservation of the church through all these overturnings of the world,
gives light and confirmation to what we read in the beginning of the
I. The first thing that here offers, is the captivity of the Jews into Babylon. This was a great dispensation of Providence, and such as never was before. The children of Israel in the time of the judges, had often been brought under their enemies; and many particular persons were carried captive at other times. But never had there been any such thing as destroying the whole land, the sanctuary, and the city of Jerusalem, and all the cities and villages of the land, and carrying the whole body of the people out of their own land into a country many hundred miles distant, and leaving the land of Canaan empty of God’s visible people. The ark had once forsaken the tabernacle of Shiloh, and was carried captive into the land of the Philistines: but never had there been any such thing as burning the sanctuary, utterly destroying the ark, carrying away all the sacred vessels and utensils, breaking up all their stated worship in the land, and the land lying waste and empty for so many years together. How lively are those things set forth in the Lamentations of Jeremiah! The work of redemption was promoted by this remarkable dispensation in these following ways.
It finally cured that nation of their idolatry. The prophet Isaiah,
speaking of the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, speaks of the
abolishing of idolatry as one thing that should be done to this end:
This nation, that was addicted to idolatry for so many ages, notwithstanding all reproofs, warnings, corrections, and all the judgments God inflicted on them for it; were now finally cured. So that however some might fall into this sin afterwards, as they did about the time of Antiochus’s persecution, yet the nation, as a nation, never showed any propensity to this sin any more. This was a remarkable and wonderful change in that people, and what directly promoted the work of redemption, as it was a great advancement of the interest of religion.
2. One thing that prepared the way for Christ’s coming, and for setting up the glorious dispensation of the gospel, was the taking away many of those things wherein consisted the glory of the Jewish dispensation. In order to introduce the glorious dispensation of the gospel, the external glory of the Jewish church must be diminished. This the Babylonish captivity did many ways.
First, it removed the temporal dominion of the house of David, i e. the
supreme and independent government of themselves. It took away the
crown and diadem from the nation. The time now approaching when Christ,
the great and everlasting King of his church, was to reign, it was time
for the typical kings to withdraw. As God said by
Again, by the captivity, the glory and magnificence of the temple were taken away, and the temple that was built afterwards was nothing in comparison with it. Thus it was meet, that when the time drew nigh that the glorious antetype of the temple should appear, that the typical temple should have its glory withdrawn.
they lost by the captivity the two tables of the testimony delivered to
Moses, on which God with his own finger wrote the ten commandments on
mount Sinai. These seem to have been preserved in the ark till the
captivity.—These were in the ark when Solomon placed the ark in the
Another thing that was lost was the Urim and Thummim. This is evident by
thing that the ancient Jews say was wanting in the second temple, was
the Shechinah, or cloud of glory over the mercy-seat. This was promised
to be in the tabernacle:
When Moses built the
tabernacle and altar in the wilderness, and the first sacrifices were
offered on it, fire came down from heaven, and consumed the
burnt-offering, as in
The captivity into Babylon occasioned the dispersion of the Jews
through the greater part of the known world, before the coming of
Christ. For the whole nation being carried away far out of their own
land, and continuing in a state of captivity for so long a time, they
got possessions, built houses, and settled themselves in the land of
their captivity, agreeable to the direction that Jeremiah gave them, (
Jews who remained in that country were soon, by the great changes that
happened in the world, dispersed thence into all the adjacent
countries. Hence we find, that in Esther’s time, which was after the
return from the captivity, the Jews were dispersed throughout all parts
of the vast Persian empire, which extended from India to Ethiopia;
Antiochus the Great, about two hundred years before Christ, on a certain occasion, transplanted two thousand families of Jews from the country about Babylon into Asia the Less; and so they and their posterity, many of them, settled in Pontus, Galatia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, and in Ephesus; and from thence settled in Athens, and Corinth, and Rome. Whence came the synagogues in those places in which the apostle Paul preached.—Now, this dispersion of the Jews through the world before Christ came, did many ways prepare the way for his coming, and setting up his kingdom in the world.
This was a means of raising a general expectation of the Messiah through the world, about the time that he actually came. For the Jews, wherever they were dispersed, carried the Holy Scriptures with them, and so the prophecies of the Messiah; and being conversant with the nations among whom they lived, they, by that means, became acquainted with these prophecies, and with the expectations of the Jews concerning their glorious Messiah. Hence, the birth of such a glorious person in Judea, about that time, began to be the general expectation of all nations, as appears by the writings of learned heathens, which are still extant; particularly the famous poet Virgil, who lived in Italy a little before Christ, has a poem about the expectation of a great prince that was to be born, and the happy times of righteousness and peace he was to introduce; some of it very much in the language of the prophet Isaiah.
Another way by which this dispersed state of the Jews prepared the way for Christ was, that it showed the necessity of abolishing the Jewish dispensation, and introducing a new dispensation of the covenant of grace. It showed 564the necessity of abolishing the ceremonial law, and the old Jewish worship: for, by this means, the observance of that ceremonial law became impracticable even by the Jews themselves. The ceremonial law was adapted to the state of a people dwelling together in the same land, where was the city which God had chosen; where was the temple, the only place where they might offer sacrifices; and where alone it was lawful for their priests and Levites to officiate, where they were to bring their first-fruits, where were their cities of refuge, and the like. But by this dispersion, many of the Jews lived more than a thousand miles distant, when Christ came; which made the observance of their laws of sacrifices, and the like, impracticable. And though their forefathers might be to blame in not going up to the land of Judea when they were permitted by Cyrus, yet the case was now, as to many of them at least, become impracticable; which showed the necessity of introducing a new dispensation, that should be fitted, not only to one particular land, but to the general circumstances and use of all nations of the world.
this universal dispersion of the Jews contributed to make the facts
concerning Jesus Christ publicly known through the world. For, as
observed before, the Jews who lived in other countries, used frequently
to go up to Jerusalem at their three great feasts, from year to year;
by which means, they could not but become acquainted with the wonderful
things that Christ did in that land. We find that the great miracle of
raising Lazarus excited the curiosity of those
foreign Jews who came up at the feast of the passover to see Jesus;
the same means the Jews who went up from other countries became
acquainted with Christ’s crucifixion. Thus the disciples going to
Emmaus say to Christ, whom they did not know,
After this, those foreign Jews who came to Jerusalem, took great notice of the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, and the wonderful effects of it; and many of them were converted by it. There were Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Egypt, and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and the strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians. And so they not only carried back the news of these facts, but Christianity itself, into their own countries with them; which contributed much to the spreading of it through the world.
Again, the dispersion of the Jews opened a door for the introduction of the apostles in all places where they came to preach the gospel. For almost in all places where they came to preach the gospel, they found synagogues of the Jews, where the Holy Scriptures were wont to be read, and the true God worshipped; which was a great advantage to the apostles in spreading the gospel through the world. For their way was, into whatever city they came, first to go into the synagogue of the Jews, (they being of the same nation,) and there to preach the gospel unto them. And hereby their new doctrine was taken notice of by their Gentile neighbours, whose curiosity excited them to hear what they had to say; which became a fair occasion to the apostles to preach the gospel to them. This is the account we have in the Acts of the Apostles. And these Gentiles had been before, many of them, prepared in some measure, by the knowledge they had of the Jewish religion, of their worship of one God, their prophecies, and expectation of a Messiah. This knowledge they derived from the Jews, who had long been their neighbours; which opened the door for the gospel to have access to them. And the work of the apostles with them was doubtless much easier, than if they never had heard any thing before of such a person as the apostles preached, or any thing about the worship of one only true God. So many ways did the Babylonish captivity greatly prepare the wav for Christ’s coming.
next particular that I would notice is, the addition made to the canon
of Scripture in the time of the captivity, in those two remarkable
portions of Scripture, the prophecies of Ezekiel and Daniel. Christ
appeared to each of these prophets in the form of that nature which he
was afterwards to take upon him. The prophet Ezekiel gives an account
of his thus appearing to him repeatedly, as
Christ not only appeared here in the form of the human nature, but he appeared in a furnace, saving those persons who believed on him from that furnace; by which is represented to us, how Christ, by coming himself into the furnace of God’s wrath, saves those that believe in him from that furnace, so that it has no power on them; and the wrath of God never reaches or touches them, so much as to singe the hair of their head.
These two prophets, in
many respects, were more particular concerning the coming of Christ,
and his glorious gospel-kingdom, than any of the prophets had been
before. They mention those three great overturnings of the world that
should be before he came. Ezekiel is particular in several places
concerning the coming of Christ. The prophet Daniel is more particular
in foretelling the time of Christ’s coming than ever any prophet had
been before, (
The prophet Ezekiel is very particular in the mystical description of the gospel-church, in his vision of the temple and city, towards the latter part of his prophecy. The prophet Daniel points out the order of particular events that should come to pass relating to the christian church after Christ was come, as the rise of Antichrist, the continuance of his reign, his fall, and the glory that should follow.—Thus does the gospel-light still increase, the nearer we come to the time of Christ’s birth.
The next particular I would mention is, the destruction of Babylon, and
the overthrow of the Chaldean empire by Cyrus. The destruction of
Babylon took place on that night in which Belshazzar the king, and the
city in general, were drowned in a drunken festival, which they kept in
honour of their gods, when Daniel was called
to read the hand-writing on the wall,
was a remarkable instance of God’s vengeance on the enemies of his
redeemed church; for God brought destruction on Babylon for the
injuries they did to God’s children, as is often set forth in the
prophets. It also promoted the work of redemption, as thereby God’s
people who were held captive by them, were set at liberty to return to
their own land in order to rebuild Jerusalem; and therefore Cyrus is
called God’s shepherd,
IV. What next followed was the return of the Jews to their own land, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Cyrus, as soon as he had destroyed the Babylonish, and erected the Persian empire on its ruins, made a decree in favour of the Jews, that they might return to their own land, and rebuild their city and temple. This return of the Jews out of the Babylonish captivity is, next to the redemption out of Egypt, the most remarkable of all the Old-Testament redemptions, and most insisted on in Scripture, as a type of the great redemption of Jesus Christ. It was under the hand of one of the legal ancestors of Christ, viz. Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, whose Babylonish name was Sheshbazzar. He was the governor of the Jews, and their leader in their first return out of captivity; and, together with Joshua the son of Josedek the high priest, had the chief hand in rebuilding the temple. This redemption was brought about by the hand of Zerubbabel and Joshua the priest, as the redemption out of Egypt was brought about by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
return out of the captivity was a remarkable dispensation of
Providence. It was remarkable, that the heart of a heathen prince,
Cyrus, should be so inclined to favour such a design. He not only gave
the people liberty to return, and rebuild the city and temple, but gave
charge that they should be helped with silver and gold, with goods, and
beasts, as we read in
After this, another favourable commission was granted by the king of Persia to Nehemiah, (
remarkable circumstance of this restitution of the state of the Jews to
their own land was, that it was accomplished against so much opposition
of their bitter indefatigable enemies, the Samaritans, who, for a long
time together, with all the malice and craft they could exercise,
opposed the Jews in this affair, and sought their destruction. One
while they were opposed by Bishlam, Mithridath, Tabeel, Rehum, and
Shimshai, as in
We have showed before, how the settlement of the people in this land in Joshua’s time promoted the work of redemption. On the same accounts does their restitution belong to the same work. The re-settlement of the Jews in the land of Canaan belongs to this work, as it was a necessary means of preserving the Jewish church and dispensation in being, till Christ should come. If it had not been for this restoration of the Jewish church, temple, and worship, the people had remained without any temple, or land of their own, that should be as it were their headquarters, a place of worship, habitation, and resort. The whole constitution, which God had done so much to establish, would have been in danger of utterly failing, long before the six hundred years had expired, which was from about the time of the captivity till Christ. And so all that preparation which God had been making for the coming of Christ, from the time of Abraham, would have been in vain. Now that very temple was built that God would fill with glory by Christ’s coming into it, as the prophets Haggai and Zechariah told the Jews in order to encourage them in building it.
V. The next particular I would observe, is the addition made to the canon of the Scriptures soon after the captivity by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, who were prophets sent lo encourage the people in their work of rebuilding the city and temple; and the main argument they use to that end, is the approach of the coming of Christ. Haggai foretold that Christ should be of Zerubbabel’s legal posterity. This seems to be the last and most particular revelation of the descent of Christ, till the angel Gabriel was sent to reveal it to his mother Mary.
The next thing I would take notice of, was the pouring out of the
Spirit of God that accompanied the ministry of Ezra the priest after
the captivity. That there was such an effusion of the Spirit of God,
that accompanied Ezra’s ministry, is manifest by many things in the
books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Presently after Ezra came up from Babylon,
with the ample commission which Artaxerxes gave him, whence Daniel’s
seventy weeks began, he set himself to reform the vices
and corruptions he found among the Jews; and his great success in it we
have an account of in the
It is observable, that it has been God’s manner, on every remarkable new establishment of the state of his visible church, to afford a remarkable outpouring of his Spirit. So it was on the first establishment of the church of the 566Jews at their coming into Canaan under Joshua; so it was now in this second settlement of the church in the time of Ezra; and so it was on the first establishment of the christian church after Christ’s resurrection; God wisely and graciously laying the foundation of those establishments in a work of the Holy Spirit, for the lasting benefit of his church, thenceforward continued in those establishments. And this pouring out of the Spirit, was a final cure of the nation of that particular sin which just before they especially run into, viz. intermarrying with the Gentiles: for however inclined to it they were before, they ever after showed an aversion to it.
Ezra added to the canon of the Scriptures. He wrote the book of Ezra;
and he is supposed to have written the two books of Chronicles, at
least of compiling them, if he was not the author of the materials, or
all the parts, of these writings. That these books were written, or
compiled and completed, after the captivity, the things contained in
the books themselves make manifest; for the genealogies contained
therein, are brought down below the captivity;
VIII. Ezra is supposed to have collected all the hooks of which the Holy Scriptures did then consist, and disposed them in their proper order. Ezra is often spoken of as a noted and eminent scribe of the law of God, and the canon of Scripture in his time was manifestly under his special care. The Jews, from the first accounts we have from them, have always held, that the canon of Scripture, so much of it as was then extant, was collected, and orderly disposed and settled, by Ezra; and that from him they have delivered it down in the order in which he disposed it, till Christ’s time; when the christian church received it from them, and have delivered it down to our times. The truth of this is allowed as undoubted by divines in general.
The work of redemption was carried on and promoted in this period, by
greatly multiplying the copies of the law, and appointing the constant
public reading of them in all the cities of Israel in their synagogues.
It is evident, that before the captivity, there were but few copies of
the law. The original was laid up beside the ark; and the kings were
required to write out a copy of it for their use, and the law was
required to be read to the whole congregation of
Israel once every seventh year. And we have no account of any other
stated public reading of the law before the captivity but this. And it
is manifest by several things that might be mentioned, that copies of
the law were exceeding rare before the captivity. But after this, the
constant reading of the law was set up in every synagogue throughout
the land. First, they began with reading the law, and then they
proceeded to establish the constant reading of the other books of the
And lessons were read out of the Old Testament, as made up of both the
law and the other parts of the Scripture then extant, in all the
synagogues, which were set up in every city, and wherever the Jews in
any considerable number dwelt. Thus we find it was in the time of
Christ and the apostles.
8. But it is not supposed that they had copies of the law for constant public reading and expounding through the land before. This was one great means of their being preserved from idolatry.
X. The next thing I would mention, is God’s remarkably preserving the church and nation of the Jews, when they were in imminent danger of being universally destroyed by Haman, as in the book of Esther. This series of providence was very wonderful in preventing this destruction. Esther was doubtless born for this end, to be the instrument of this remarkable preservation.
XI. After this the canon of Scripture was further enlarged in the books of Nehemiah and Esther; the one by Nehemiah himself. Whether the other was written by Nehemiah, or Mordecai, or Malachi, is not of importance for us to know, so long as it is one of those books that were always admitted and received as a part of their canon by the Jews, and was among those books which the Jews called their Scriptures in Christ’s time, and as such was approved by him. For Christ often in his speeches to the Jews, manifestly approves and confirms those books, which amongst them went by the name of the Scriptures, as might easily be shown.
After this the canon of the Old Testament was completed and sealed by
Malachi. The manner of his concluding his prophecy seems to imply, that
they were to expect no more prophecies, and no more written revelations
from God, till Christ should come. For in the last chapter he
prophesies of Christ’s coming;
XIII. Soon after this, the spirit of prophecy ceased among that people till the time of the New Testament. Thus the Old-Testament light, the stars of the long night, began apace to hide their heads, the time of the Sun of righteousness now drawing nigh. We before observed, how the kings of the house of David ceased before the true king and head of the church came; and how the cloud of glory withdrew, before Christ, the brightness of the Father’s glory, appeared. And now the spirit of prophecy ceased. The time of the great prophet of God was now so nigh, it was time for their typical prophets to be silent.
We have now gone through the time of which we have any historical account in the writings of the Old Testament; and the last thing mentioned, by which the work of redemption was promoted, was the ceasing of the spirit of prophecy.—I now proceed to show how the work of redemption was carried on through the remaining times before Christ. In this we have not that thread of scripture history to guide us that we have had hitherto; but have these three things, viz. the prophecies of the Old Testament, human histories, and some occasional evidence of things which happened in those times, in the New Testament. Therefore,
XIV. The next particular that I shall mention under this period, is the destruction of the Persian empire, and setting up of the Grecian empire by Alexander. This came to pass about sixty or seventy years after the times wherein the prophet Malachi is supposed to have prophesied, and about three hundred and thirty years before Christ. This was the third revolution that came to pass in this period, and was greater and more remarkable than either of the foregoing. It was very remarkable on account of the suddenness of that conquest which Alexander made, and the greatness of the empire he set up, which much exceeded in extent all the foregoing.
event is much spoken of in the prophecies of Daniel. This empire is
represented by the third kingdom of brass in Daniel’s interpretation of
Alexander had conquered the world, he soon died; and his dominion did
not descend to his posterity, but four of his principal captains
divided his empire between them. Now that being broken, and four stood
up for it, four kingdoms stand up out of the nation, but not in his
power; as in the
Now, this setting up of the Grecian empire did greatly prepare the way for Christ’s coming, and for the erection of his kingdom. Besides the ways common to others in this period, there is one peculiar to this revolution, which remarkably promoted the work of redemption; and that was, that it made the Greek language common in the world. To have one common language understood and used through the greater part of the world, must greatly prepare the way for the setting up of Christ’s kingdom. This gave advantage for spreading the gospel through all nations, with vastly greater ease, than if every nation had a distinct language, and did not understand each other. For though some of the first preachers of the gospel had the gift of tongues, so that they could preach in any language; yet all had not this particular gift; and they who had could not exercise it when they would, but only at special seasons, when the Spirit of God was pleased to inspire them in this way. And the churches in different and distant parts of the world, as at Jerusalem, Antioch, Galatia, Corinth, &c. could not have had that communication of which we have an account in the book of Acts, without a common language.—After the Grecian empire was set up, many in all these countries well understood the Greek language; which wonderfully opened the door for mutual communication between those churches which were so far separated one from another.
Again, making the Greek language common through so great a part of the world, did wonderfully make way for the kingdom of Christ, because it was the language in which the New Testament was to be originally written. The apostles propagated the gospel through many scores of nations; and if those nations could not have understood the Bible any otherwise than as it was translated into so many languages, it would have rendered the spreading of the gospel vastly more difficult. But by the Greek being made common to all, they all understood the New Testament of Jesus Christ in the language in which the apostles and evangelists originally wrote it. As soon as ever it was written by its original penmen, it immediately lay open to the world in a language that was commonly understood.
XV. The next thing I notice is the translating of the Old Testament into the Greek language, which was commonly understood by the Gentiles. This is commonly called the Septuagint, or the translation of the Seventy; and is supposed to have been made about fifty or sixty years after Alexander’s conquests. This is the first translation that ever was made of the Scriptures that we have any credible account of. The canon of the Old Testament had been completed by the prophet Malachi but about a hundred and twenty years before in its original. Hitherto the Scriptures had remained locked up among the Jews in the Hebrew tongue, which was understood by no other nation; but now it was translated into a language that was commonly understood by the nations of the world.
This translation of the Old Testament is still extant, and is of great use. The Jews have many fables about the occasion and manner of this translation; but the truth of the case is supposed to be this, that multitudes of the Jews living in other parts of the world besides Judea, and being born and bred among the Greeks, the Greek became their common language. These not understanding the original Hebrew, they procured the Scriptures to be translated for their use into the Greek language: and so henceforward the Jews, in all countries, except Judea, were wont in their synagogues to make use of this translation instead of the Hebrew.
This translation of the Scriptures into a language so commonly understood through the world, greatly prepared the way for setting up Christ’s kingdom in the world. For the apostles commissioned to preach through the world, made great use of the scriptures of the Old Testament, and especially of the prophecies concerning Christ that were contained in them. By means of this translation, and by the Jews being scattered every where, they had the Scriptures at hand in a language understood by the Gentiles. Hence they principally made use of this translation in their preaching and writings wherever they went. In all the numerous quotations out of the Old Testament in their writings, they are made almost every where in the very words of the Septuagint. The sense is the same as in the original Hebrew; though the words are different. But yet this makes it evident, that the apostles in their preaching and writings, commonly made use of this translation. And this translation was principally used in christian churches through most nations of the world, for several hundred years after Christ.
XVI. The next thing is the wonderful preservation of the church when it was eminently threatened and persecuted under the Grecian empire. The first time they were threatened was by Alexander himself. When besieging the city of Tyre, he sent to the Jews for assistance and supplies for his army. Out of a conscientious regard to their oath to the king of Persia, they refused; but he being a man of a very furious spirit, agreeable to the scripture representation of the rough he-goat, marched against them, with a design to cut them off. When he met the priests going out to him in their priestly garments, God wonderfully turned his heart to spare them, and favour them, as he did the heart of Esau when he met Jacob.
After this, one of the kings of Egypt, a successor of one of Alexander’s four captains, entertained a design of destroying the nation of the Jews;  but was remarkably and wonderfully prevented by a stronger interposition of Heaven for their preservation.
the most wonderful preservation of them all in this period was under
the cruel persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, and
successor of another of Alexander’s
568four captains. The Jews were at that time
subject to the power of Antiochus; and he being enraged against them,
long strove to his utmost utterly to destroy them, and root them out;
at least all of them that would not forsake their religion, and worship
his idols. He did indeed in a
great measure waste the country, and depopulate the city of Jerusalem;
and profaned the temple, by setting up his idols in some parts of it;
and persecuted the people with insatiable cruelty; so that we have no
account of any persecution like this before. Many of the particular
circumstances of this persecution would be very affecting were there
time to insist on them. This cruel persecution began about a hundred
and seventy years before Christ. It is spoken of in the prophecy of
intended not only to extirpate the Jewish religion, but, as far as in
him lay, the very nation; and particularly laboured to the utmost to
destroy all copies of the law. And considering how weak they were, in
comparison with a king of such vast dominion, the providence of God
appears very wonderful in defeating his design. Many times the Jews
seemed to be on the very brink of ruin, just ready to be wholly
swallowed up; and their enemies often thought
themselves sure of obtaining their purpose. They once came against the
people with a mighty army, with a design of killing all, except the
women and children, and of selling these for slaves; and so confident
were they of obtaining their purpose, and others of purchasing, that
above a thousand merchants came with the army, with money in their
hands, to buy the slaves that should be sold. But God wonderfully
stirred up and assisted one Judas, and others his successors, called
the Maccabees, who,
with a small handful in comparison vanquished their enemies time after
time, and delivered their nation. This also was foretold by Daniel,
Speaking of Antiochus’s persecution, he says,
brought this Antiochus to a fearful, miserable end, by a loathsome
disease, under dreadful torments of body and horrors of mind; which was
foretold, in these words, (
XVII. The next
thing is the destruction of the Grecian, and setting up of the Roman,
empire. This was the fourth revolution in this period. And though it
was brought to pass more gradually than the setting up of the Grecian
empire, yet it far exceeded that, and was much the greatest and largest
temporal monarchy that ever was in the world; so that the Roman empire
was commonly called all the world; as in
This empire is spoken of as much the strongest and greatest of any of the four:
The nations being thus united under one monarchy when Christ came, and when the apostles went forth to preach the gospel, greatly prepared the way for the spreading of the gospel, and the setting up of Christ’s kingdom in the world.—For the world being thus subject to one government, it opened a general communication, and so opportunity was given for the more swift propagation of the gospel. Thus we find it in the British dominions, the communication is quick from one part to another. There are innumerable difficulties in travelling through different nations, that are under different independent governments, which there are not in travelling through different parts of the same realm, or different dominions of the same prince. So the world being under one government, that of the Romans, facilitated the apostles’ travelling.
About the same time learning and philosophy were risen to their
greatest height in the heathen world.—Almost all the famous
philosophers among the heathen, were after the captivity into Babylon.
Almost all the wise men of Greece and Rome flourished in this time.
What these philosophers in general chiefly professed as their business,
was to inquire, wherein man’s chief happiness lay, and how to obtain
it. They seemed earnestly to busy themselves in this inquiry,
and wrote multitudes of books about it, many of which are still extant;
but they were exceedingly divided, there having been reckoned several
hundreds of different opinions which they had concerning it. Thus they
wearied themselves in vain, wandering in the dark, not having the
glorious gospel to guide them. God was pleased to suffer men to do the
utmost that they could with human wisdom, and to try the utmost extent
of their own understandings in order to find out the way to happiness,
the true light came to enlighten the world. God suffered these great
philosophers to try what they could do for six hundred years together;
and then it proved by the events of so long a time, that all they could
do was in vain; the world not becoming wiser, better, or happier under
their instructions, but growing more and more foolish, wicked, and
miserable. He suffered this, that it might be seen how far reason and
philosophy could go in their highest ascent, that the necessity of a
teacher might more convincingly appear. God was pleased to make foolish
the wisdom of this world—to show men the folly of their best wisdom—by
the doctrines of his glorious gospel, which were above the reach of all
their philosophy. See
God had showed the vanity of human learning, when set up in the room of
the gospel, God was pleased to make it subservient to the purposes of
Christ’s kingdom, as a handmaid to divine revelation. Thereby the
vanity of human wisdom was shown, and the necessity of the gospel
appeared; and hereby a handmaid was prepared to the gospel. An instance
of this we have in the apostle Paul, who was famed for his much
XIX. Just before Christ was born, the Roman empire was raised to its greatest height, and also settled in peace. About four and twenty years before Christ, Augustus Caesar, the first Roman emperor, began to rule as emperor of the world. Till then the Roman empire had of a long time been a commonwealth under the government of the senate: but then it became an absolute monarchy. This personage, as he was the first, so he was the greatest of all the Roman emperors: he reigned in the greatest glory. Thus the power of the heathen world, which was Satan’s visible kingdom, was raised to its greatest height, after it had been strengthening itself more and more from the days of Solomon, which was about a thousand years. Now the heathen world was in its greatest glory for strength, wealth, and learning.
God did two things to prepare the way for Christ’s coming, wherein he took a contrary method from that which human wisdom would have taken. He brought his own visible people very low, and made them weak; but the heathen, his enemies, he exalted to the greatest height, for the more glorious triumph of the cross of Christ. With a small number in their greatest weakness, he conquered his enemies in their greatest glory. Thus Christ triumphed over principalities and powers in his cross.
Augustus Caesar had been for many years establishing his empire, and subduing his enemies, till the very year that Christ was born: when, all his enemies being subdued, 569his dominion over the world seemed to be gloriously settled. All was established in peace; in token whereof the Romans shut the temple of Janus, which was an established symbol among them of there being universal peace throughout the empire. And this universal peace, which was begun that very year in which Christ was born, lasted twelve years, even till the year that Christ disputed with the doctors in the temple.
Thus the world, after it had been, as it were, in a continual convulsion for so many hundred years together—like the four winds striving together on the tumultuous raging ocean, whence arose those four great monarchies—was now established in the greatest height of the fourth and last monarchy, and settled in quietness. Now all things are ready for the birth of Christ. This remarkable universal peace, after so many ages of tumult and war, was a fit prelude for ushering the glorious Prince of peace into the world.
Thus I have gone through the first grand period of the whole space between the fall of man and the end of the world, viz. from the fall to the time of the incarnation of Christ; and have shown the truth of the first proposition, viz. That from the fall of man to the incarnation of Christ, God was doing those things which were preparatory to Christ’s coming, and were forerunners of it.
PART VII. Improvement of the First PERIOD.
IMPROVEMENT OF THE FIRST PERIOD.
Before I proceed to the next period, I would make some few remarks, by way of improvement upon what has been said under this.
I. From what has been said, we may strongly argue, that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world; and so that the christian religion is the true religion, seeing that Christ is the very person so evidently pointed at, in all the great dispensations of Divine Providence from the very fall of man, and was so undoubtedly in so many instances foretold from age to age, and shadowed forth in a vast variety of types and figures. If we seriously consider the course of things from the beginning, and observe the motions of all the great wheels of providence, we shall discern that they all tend hither. They are all as so many lines, whose course, if it be observed and accurately followed, will be found to centre here. It is so very plain in many things, that it would argue stupidity to deny it. This person, sent from God, came into the world with his commission and authority, to do his work, and to declare his mind. The Governor of the world, in all his great works towards Jews and Gentiles, down to the time of Christ’s birth, has declared it. It is a plain and evident truth, that he who was born at Bethlehem, who dwelt at Nazareth and Capernaum, and who was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem, must be the great Messiah. Blessed are all they that believe in and confess him, and miserable are all that deny him. This shows the unreasonableness of the deists, who deny revealed religion, and of the Jews, who deny that this Jesus is the Messiah foretold and promised to their fathers.
Here should any object, That it may be, some cunning men contrived this history, and these prophecies, on purpose to prove that he is the Messiah. To such it may be replied, How could such a thing be contrived by cunning men to point to Jesus Christ, long before he ever was born? How could they know that any such person would be born? And how could their subtlety help them to foresee and point at an event that was to come to pass many ages afterwards? For no fact can be more evident, than that the Jews had those writings long before Christ was born: as they have them still in great veneration, in all their dispersions through the world. They would never have received such a contrivance from Christians, to prove Jesus to be the Messiah, whom they always denied; and much less would they have been made to believe that they always had those books in their hands, if they had been an imposition.
II. What has been said, affords a strong argument for the divine authority of the books of the Old Testament, from that admirable harmony there is in them, whereby they all point to the same thing. For we may see by what has been said, how all the parts of the Old Testament, though written by so many different penmen, and in ages so distant, harmonize one with another. All agree in one, and centre in the same event; which it was impossible for any one of them to know, but by divine revelation.
Now, if the Old Testament was not inspired by God, what account can be given of such an agreement? for if these books were written without any divine direction, then none of these penmen knew that there would come such a person as Jesus Christ into the world; his coming was only a mere figment of their own brain: and if so, how happened it, that this figment of theirs came to pass ? How came a vain imagination of theirs, which they foretold without any manner of ground for their prediction, to be exactly fulfilled? and especially how did they come all to agree in it, all pointing exactly to the same thing, though many of them lived so many hundred years distant one from another?—This admirable consent and agreement in a future event, is therefore a clear and certain evidence of the divine authority of those writings.
III. Hence we may learn how weak and ignorant the objection is, against the Old Testament being the word of God, because it consists so much of warlike histories and civil transactions. Here, say some, we have histories of their kings and rulers, their wars with neighbouring nations, and the changes that happened in their state and government: but other nations used to keep histories of their public affairs, as well as they; why then should we think that these histories which the Jews kept are the word of God, more than those of other people? What has been said, shows the folly and vanity of such an objection. For hereby it appears, that the case of these histories is very different from that of all others. This history alone gives us an account of the first original of all things; and this alone deduces things down to us in a wonderful series from that original, giving an idea of the grand scheme of Divine Providence, as tending to its great end. And, together with the doctrines and prophecies contained in it, the same book gives a view of the whole series of the great events of Divine Providence, from the origin to the consummation of all things; exhibiting an excellent and glorious account of the wise and holy designs of the supreme Governor in all.—No common history has had such penmen. This history was all written by men who came with evident signs and testimonies of their being prophets of the most high God, immediately inspired.—And though histories, yet containing those great events of providence by which it appears how God has been carrying on the glorious work of redemption from age to age, they are no less full of divine instruction, and those things that show forth Christ, and his glorious gospel, than the other parts of the Holy Scriptures.
To object against a book’s being divine, merely because it is historical, is a poor fancy; as if that could not be the word of God which gives an account of what is past; or as though it were not reasonable to suppose, that God, in a revelation he should give mankind, would give us any relation of the dispensations of his own providence. If so, it must be because his works are not worthy to be related: or because the scheme of his government, and the series of his dispensations towards his church, and the world he has made, is not worthy that any record should be kept of it.
The objection, That it is a common thing for nations and kingdoms to write histories and keep records of their wars, and the revolutions that come to pass in their territories, is so far from being a weighty objection against the historical part of Scripture, as though it were not the word of God, that it is a strong argument in favour of it. For if the light of nature teaches all civilized nations to keep records of the events of their government and the series of their administrations, and to publish histories for the information of others, how much more may we expect that God would give the world a record of the dispensations 570 of his government, which doubtless is infinitely more worthy of a history for our information? If wise kings have taken care that there should be good histories written of the nations over which they have reigned, shall we think it incredible, that Jesus Christ should take care that his church, which is his nation, his peculiar people, should have in their hands a certain infallible history of their nation, and of his government of them?
If it had not been for the history of the Old Testament, how woefully should we have been left in the dark about many things which the church of God needs to know! How ignorant should we have been of God’s dealings towards mankind, and towards his church, from the beginning! We should have been wholly in the dark about the creation of the world, the fall of man, the first rise and continued progress of the dispensations of grace towards fallen mankind. We should have known nothing how God at first set up a church in the world, and how it was preserved; after what manner he governed it from the beginning; how the light of the gospel first began to dawn in the world; how it increased, and how things were preparing for the coining of Christ.
If we are Christians, we belong to that building of God that has been the subject of our discourse: but if it had not been for the history of the Old Testament, we should never have known what was the first occasion of God’s going about this building, how the foundation of it was laid, and how it has gone on from the beginning. The times of the history of the Old Testament are mostly such as no other history includes; and therefore, if God had not taken care to give and preserve an account of these things for us, we should have been wholly without them.
Those that object against the authority of the Old-Testament history, may as well object against Moses’s account of the creation; for, in the former, we have a history of a work no less important, viz. the work of redemption. Yea, this is a far greater and more glorious work. If it be inquired which of the two works, that of creation, or that of providence, is greatest? it must be answered, the work of providence; but the work of redemption is the greatest of the works of providence.—And let those who make this objection consider what part of the Old-Testament history can be spared, without making a great breach in that thread or series of events by which this glorious work has been carried on.—This leads me to observe,
IV. That, from what has been said, we may see much of the wisdom of God in the composition of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, i.e. in the parts of which it consists. Let us briefly take a view of the several parts of it, and of the need there was of them.
It was necessary, for instance, that we should have some account of the creation of the world, of our first parents, and their primitive state; of the fall, of the old world, and its degeneracy; of the universal deluge, and the origin of nations after this destruction of mankind.
It seems necessary, moreover, that there should be some account of the succession of the church of God from the beginning. God suffered all the world to degenerate, and took one nation only to be his people, to preserve the true worship and religion till the Saviour of the world should come. In them the world was gradually prepared for that great light, and those wonderful things of which he was to be the author. Thus they were a typical nation, that in them God might shadow forth and teach, as under a vail, all the future glories of the gospel. It was therefore necessary that we should have some account of this; how it was first effected by the call of Abraham, and by their being bond-slaves in Egypt, and how they were brought to Canaan. It was necessary that we should have some account of the revelation which God made of himself to that people, in giving their law, in the appointment of their typical worship, wherein the gospel is vailed, and of the formation of their civil and ecclesiastical state.
It seems exceeding necessary that we should have some account of their being actually brought to Canaan, the country promised them and where they always dwelt; that we should have a history of the successions of the church of Israel, and of those providences towards them, which were most considerable and fullest of gospel mystery; that we should have some account of the promised external glory of that nation under David and Solomon, and a very particular account of David, whose history is so full of the gospel, and in whom began the race of their kings; and that we should have some account of the building of the temple, which was also full of gospel-mystery.
And it is a matter of great consequence, that we should have some account of Israel’s dividing from Judah, and of the ten tribes’ captivity and utter rejection, and therefore a brief history of them till that time; that we should have an account of the succession of the kings of Judah, and of the church, till their captivity into Babylon; of their return from captivity, and resettlement in their own land, with the origin of the last state of the church before Christ came.
A little consideration will convince any one, that all these things were necessary, and that none of them could be spared; and in the general, that it was necessary we should have a history of God’s church till such times as are within the reach of human histories. It was of vast importance that we should have an inspired history of those times of the Jewish church, wherein there was kept up a more extraordinary intercourse between God and them, while he used to dwell among them as it were visibly, revealing himself by the Shechinah, by Urim and Thummim, and by prophecy, and so more immediately to order their affairs. And it was necessary that we should have some account of the great dispensations of God in prophecy, after the finishing of inspired history; for which it was needful that there should be a number of prophets raised who should foretell the coming of the Son of God, and the nature and glory of his kingdom, as so many harbingers to make way for him, and that their prophecies should remain in the church.
was also a matter of great consequence that the church should have a
book of divine songs given by inspiration from God, wherein there
should be a lively representation of the true spirit of devotion, of
faith, hope, and divine love, of joy, resignation, humility, obedience,
repentance, &c. as in the Psalms; also that we should have from God
such books of moral instructions as we have in Proverbs and
Ecclesiastes, relating to the affairs and state of mankind,
and the concerns of human life, containing rules of true wisdom and
prudence for our conduct in all circumstances; and that we should have
particularly a song representing the great love between Christ and his
spouse the church, adapted to the disposition and holy affections of a
true christian soul towards Christ, and representing his grace and
marvellous love to, and delight in, his people, as in Solomon’s Song.
It is important that we should have a book to teach us how to conduct
under affliction, seeing the church of God here is in a militant state,
and God’s people through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of
heaven. The church is for a long time under trouble, meets with fiery
trials, and extreme sufferings, before her time of peace and rest in
the latter ages of the world. Therefore God has given us a book most
proper in these circumstances, the book of Job; and though written on
occasion of the afflictions of a particular saint, it was probably at
to the church in Egypt under her afflictions there; and is made use of
by the apostle to comfort Christians under persecutions,
Thus, from this brief review, I think it appears, that every part of the scriptures of the Old Testament is very useful and necessary, and no part of it can be spared without loss to the church. And therefore the wisdom of God is conspicuous in ordering, that the scriptures of the Old Testament should consist of those very books of which they do consist.
Before I dismiss this particular, I would add, that it is very observable, that the history of the Old Testament is large and particular where the great affair of redemption required it; even where there was most done towards this work, most to typify Christ, and to prepare the way for him. Thus it is very particular in the history of Abraham 571and the other patriarchs; but very short in the account we have of the time which the children of Israel spent in Egypt. It is large in the account of the redemption out of Egypt, and the first settling of the affairs of the Jewish church and nation in the time of Moses and Joshua; but much shorter in the times of the judges. So again, it is large and particular in the times of David and Solomon, and then very short in the history of the ensuing reigns. Thus the accounts are large and short, just as there is more or less of the affair of redemption to be seen in them.
V. From what has been said, we may see, that Christ and his redemption are the great subject of the whole Bible. Concerning the New Testament, the matter is plain; and by what has been said, it appears to be so also with respect to the Old Testament. Christ and his redemption is the great subject of the prophecies of the Old Testament, as has been shown. It has also been shown, that he is the great subject of the songs of the Old Testament; and the moral rules and precepts are all given in subordination to him. Christ and his redemption are also the great subject of the history of the Old Testament from the beginning all along; and even the history of the creation is brought in as an introduction to the history of redemption that immediately follows it. The whole book, both Old Testament and New, is filled up with the gospel; only with this difference, that the Old Testament contains the gospel under a vail, but the New contains it unvailed, so that we may see the glory of the Lord with open face.
VI. By what has been said, we may see the usefulness and excellency of the Old Testament. Some are ready to look on the Old Testament as being out of date, and as if we in these days of the gospel have but little to do with it. But this is a very great mistake, arising from want of observing the nature and design of the Old Testament, which, if it were observed, would appear full of the gospel of Christ, and would in an excellent manner illustrate and confirm the glorious doctrines and promises of the New Testament. Those parts of the Old Testament which are commonly looked upon as containing the least divine instruction, are mines and treasures of gospel-knowledge; and the reason why they are thought to contain so little is, because persons do but superficially read them. The treasures which are hid underneath are not observed. They only look on the top of the ground, and suddenly pass a judgment that there is nothing there. But they never dig into the mine: if they did, they would find it richly stored with what is more valuable than silver and gold, and would be abundantly requited for their pains.
What has been said, may show us what a precious treasure God has committed into our hands, in that he has given us the Bible. How little do most persons consider what a privilege they enjoy, in the possession of that holy book, the Bible, which they have in their hands, and may converse with as they please. What an excellent book is this, and how far exceeding all human writings! It reveals God to us, and gives us a view of the grand design and glorious scheme of providence from the beginning of the world, either in history or prophecy. It reveals the great Redeemer, his glorious redemption, and the various steps by which God accomplishes it from the first foundation to the top-stone! Shall we prize a history which gives us a clear account of some great earthly prince, or mighty warrior, as of an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Marlborough? and shall we not prize the history that God gives us of the glorious kingdom of his Son Jesus Christ, the Prince and Saviour, and of the great transactions of that King of kings, and Lord of armies, the Lord mighty in battle; and what he has wrought for the redemption of his chosen people?
What has been said, may make us sensible how much most persons are to
blame for their inattentive, unobservant way of reading the Scriptures.
How much profitable matter do the Scriptures contain, if it were but
observed! The Bible is the most comprehensive book in the world. But
what will all this signify to us, if we read it without observing what
is the drift of the Holy Ghost in it? The psalmist, begs of God,
The histories of Scripture are but too commonly read, as if they were written only to entertain men’s fancies, when the infinitely great things contained in them are passed over without notice. Whatever treasures the Scriptures contain, we shall be never the better for them if we do not observe them. He that has a Bible, and does not observe what it contains, is like a man who has a box full of silver and gold, and does not know it, nor observe that it is any thing more than a vessel filled with common stones. He will be never the better for his treasure; and so might as well be without it. He who has plenty of the choicest food stored up in his house, and does not know it, will never taste what he has, and will be as likely to starve as if his house were empty.
VIII. What has been said, may show us how great a person Jesus Christ is, and how great his errand into the world, seeing there was so much done to prepare the way for his coming. God had been preparing the way for him through all ages of the world from the very beginning. If we had notice of a certain stranger being about to come into a country, and should observe that a great preparation was made for him, great things were done, many alterations made in the state of the whole country, many hands employed, persons of great note engaged in making the preparation; and all the affairs and concerns of the country ordered so as to be subservient to the design of entertaining that person, it would be natural for us to think, surely this is some extraordinary person, and it is some very great business that he is coming upon. How great a person then must he be, for whose coming the great God of heaven and earth, and Governor of all things, spent four thousand years in preparing the way! Soon after the world was created, and from age to age, he has been doing great things, bringing mighty events to pass, accomplishing wonders without number, often overturning the world in order to it. He has been causing every thing in the state of mankind, and all revolutions and changes in the habitable world, from generation to generation, to be subservient to this great design.—Surely this must be some great and extraordinary person, and a great work indeed it must needs be, about which he is coming.
We read, (
PERIOD II. From Christ's Incarnation to his Resurrection.572
FROM CHRIST’S INCARNATION TO HIS RESURRECTION.
Having shown how the work of redemption was carried on through the first period, from the fall of man to the incarnation of Christ, I come now to the second period, viz. the time of Christ’s humiliation, or the space from his incarnation to his resurrection. And this is the most remarkable article of time that ever was or ever will be. Though it was but between thirty and forty years, yet more was done in it than had been done from the beginning of the world to that time. We have observed, that all which had been done from the fall to the incarnation of Christ, was only preparatory for what was now done. And it may also be observed, that all which was done before the beginning of time, in the eternal counsels between the persons of the blessed Trinity, chiefly respected this period. We therefore now proceed to consider the second proposition, viz.
That during the time of Christ’s humiliation, from his incarnation to his resurrection, the purchase of redemption was made.
Though many things had been done in the affair of redemption, though millions of sacrifices had been offered; yet nothing was done to purchase redemption before Christ’s incarnation. No part of the purchase was made, no part of the price was offered till now. But as soon as Christ was incarnate, the purchase began.—And the whole time of Christ’s humiliation, till the morning that he rose from the dead, was taken up in this purchase. Then the purchase was entirely and completely finished. As nothing was done before Christ’s incarnation, so nothing was done after his resurrection, to purchase redemption for men. Nor will there ever be any thing more done to all eternity. That very moment when the human nature of Christ ceased to remain under the power of death, the utmost farthing was paid of the price of salvation for every one of the elect.
But for the more orderly and regular consideration of the great things done by our Redeemer to purchase redemption for us, I would speak of his becoming incarnate to capacitate himself for this purchase;—and of the purchase itself.
PART I. Of Christ's Incarnation.
OF CHRIST’S INCARNATION.
christ became incarnate, or, which is the same thing, became man, to put himself in a capacity for working out our redemption. For though Christ, as God, was infinitely sufficient for the work, yet to his being in an immediate capacity for it, it was needful that he should not only be God, but man. If Christ had remained only in the divine nature, he would not have been in a capacity to have purchased our salvation; not from any imperfection of the divine nature, but by reason of its absolute and infinite perfection: for Christ, merely as God, was not capable either of that obedience or suffering that was needful. The divine nature is not capable of suffering; for it is infinitely above all suffering. Neither is it capable of obedience to that law which was given to man. It is as impossible that one who is only God, should obey the law that was given to man, as it is that he should suffer man’s punishment.
And it was necessary not only that Christ should take upon him a created nature, but that he should take upon him our nature. It would not have sufficed for Christ to have become an angel, and to have obeyed and suffered in the angelic nature. But it was necessary that he should become a man, upon three accounts.
1. It was needful in order to answer the law, that the very nature to which the law was given, should obey it. Man’s law could not be answered, but by being obeyed by man. God insisted upon it, that the law which he had given to man shall be honoured, and fulfilled by the nature of man, otherwise the law could not be answered for men. The words, “Thou shalt not eat thereof,” &c. were spoken to the race of mankind, to the human nature; and therefore the human nature must fulfil them.
2. It was needful to answer the law that the nature that sinned should die. These words, “Thou shalt surely die,  “ respect the human nature. The same nature to which the command was given, was that to which the threatening was directed.
3. God saw meet, that the same world which was the stage of man’s fall and ruin, should also be the stage of his redemption.
We read often of his coming into the world to save sinners, and of
God’s sending him into the world for this purpose.—It was needful that
he should come into this sinful,
miserable, undone world, in order to restore and save it. For man’s
recovery, it was needful that he should come down to man, to man’s
proper habitation, and that he should tabernacle with us:
Concerning the incarnation of Christ, I would observe these following things.
I. The incarnation itself; in which especially two things are to be considered, viz.
1. His conception; which was in the womb of one of the race of mankind, whereby he became truly the Son of man, as he was often called. He was one of the posterity of Adam, a child of Abraham, and a son of David, according to God’s promise. But his conception was—not in the way of ordinary generation, but—by the power of the Holy Ghost. Christ was formed in the womb of the Virgin, of the substance of her body, by the power of the Spirit of God. So that he was the immediate son of the woman, but not the immediate son of any male whatsoever; and so was the seed of the woman, and the son of a virgin, one that had never known man.
2. His birth.—Though the conception of Christ was supernatural, yet after he was conceived, his human nature was gradually perfected in the womb of the virgin, in a way of natural progress; and so his birth was in the way of nature. But his conception being supernatural, by the power of the Holy Ghost, he was both conceived and born without sin.
The second thing I would observe concerning the incarnation of Christ,
is the fulness of the time in which it was accomplished. It was after
things had been preparing for it from the very first fall of mankind,
and when all things were ready. It came to pass at a time, which in
infinite wisdom was the most fit and proper:
It was now the most proper time on every account. Any time before the flood would not have been so fit a time. For then the mischief and ruin that the fall brought on mankind, was not so fully seen. The curse did not so fully come on the earth before the flood, as it did afterwards: for though the ground was cursed in a great measure before, yet it pleased God that the curse should once, before the restoration by Christ, be executed in an universal destruction, even of the very form of the earth, that the dire effects of the fall might be seen before the recovery. Though mankind were mortal before the flood, yet their lives were almost a thousand years in length, a kind of immortality in comparison with what the life of man is now. It pleased God, that the curse, Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return, should have its full accomplishment, and be executed in its greatest degree on mankind, before the Redeemer came to purchase a never-ending life.
573 It would not have been so fit a time for Christ to come, before Moses; for till then mankind were not so universally apostatized from the true God; they were not fallen universally into heathenish darkness; and so the need of Christ, the light of the world, was not so evident. The woeful consequence of the fall with respect to man’s mortality, was not so fully manifest till then; for man’s life was not so shortened as to be reduced to the present standard, till about Moses’s time.
It was most fit that the time of the Messiah’s coming should not be till all nations, but the children of Israel, had lain long in heathenish darkness; that the remedilessness of their disease might by long experience be seen, and so the absolute necessity of the heavenly Physician.
Another reason why Christ did not come soon after the flood probably was, that the earth might be full of people, that he might have the more extensive kingdom, that the effects of his light, power, and grace, might be glorified, and that his victory over Satan might be attended with the more glory in the multitude of his conquests. It was also needful that the coming of Christ should be many ages after Moses, that the church might be prepared by the Messiah’s being long prefigured, foretold, and expected. It was not proper that Christ should come before the Babylonish captivity, because Satan’s kingdom was not then come to its height. The heathen world before that consisted of lesser kingdoms. But God saw meet that the Messiah should come in the time of one of the four great monarchies. Nor was it proper that he should come in the time of the Babylonish, the Persian, or the Grecian monarchy. It was the will of God that his Son should make his appearance in the world in the time of the Roman, the greatest and strongest monarchy, which was Satan’s visible kingdom in the world; that, by overcoming this, he might visibly overcome Satan’s kingdom in its greatest strength and glory, and so obtain the more complete triumph over Satan himself.
It was not proper that Christ should come before the Babylonish captivity. For, before that, we have not histories of the state of the heathen world, to give us an idea of the need of a Saviour. Besides, learning did not much flourish, and so there had not been opportunity to show the insufficiency of human learning and wisdom to reform and save mankind. Again, the Jews were not dispersed over the world, as they were afterwards; and so things were not prepared in this respect for the coming of Christ. The necessity of abolishing the Jewish dispensation was not then so apparent as it was afterwards, by reason of the dispersion of the Jews; neither was the way prepared for the propagation of the gospel, as it was afterwards, by the same dispersion. Many other things might be mentioned, by which it would appear, that no other season before that very time in which Christ came, would have been proper for his appearing.
III. The next thing that I would observe concerning the incarnation of Christ, is the greatness of this event. Christ’s incarnation was a greater and more wonderful thing than ever had yet come to pass. The creation of the world was a very great thing, but not so great as the incarnation of Christ. It was a great thing for God to make the creature, but not so great as for the Creator himself to become a creature. We have spoken of many great things that were accomplished between the fall of man and the incarnation of Christ: but God becoming man was greater than all. Then the greatest person was born that ever was or ever will be.
Next observe, concerning the incarnation of Christ, the remarkable
circumstances of it. He was born of a poor virgin; a pious holy person,
but poor, as appeared by her offering at her purification:
He was born in the town of Bethlehem, as was foretold: (
V. Observe the concomitants of this great event.—And,
1. The return of the Spirit;
which indeed began a little before, but yet was given on occasion of
his birth. I have before observed how the spirit of prophecy ceased,
not long after Malachi. From about the same time visions and immediate
revelations ceased also. But on this occasion, they were granted anew,
and the Spirit in these operations returns again. The first revealed
instance of its restoration is the vision of Zacharias, the father of
John the Baptist,
The next concomitant of Christ’s incarnation is, the great notice that
was taken of it in heaven, and on earth. How it was noticed by the
glorious inhabitants of the heavenly world, appears by their joyful
songs on this occasion, heard by the shepherds in the night. This was
the greatest event of Providence that ever the angels had beheld. We
read of their singing praises when they saw the formation of this lower
glorious angels had all along expected this event. They had taken great
notice of the prophecies and promises of these things: for we are told,
that they desire to look into the affairs of redemption,
Notice was taken of it by Elisabeth and the Virgin Mary before the birth of Christ; not to say by John the Baptist before he was born, when he leaped in his mother’s womb as it were for joy, at the voice of the salutation of Mary. Elisabeth and Mary most joyfully praise God together, with Christ and his forerunner in their wombs, and the Holy Spirit in their souls. And afterwards what joyful notice is taken of this event by the shepherds, and by those holy persons, Zacharias, and Simeon, and Anna! How do they praise God on the occasion! Thus the inhabitants of heaven, and the church on earth, unite in their joy and praise on this occasion.
Great part of the universe takes joyful notice of the incarnation of Christ. Heaven takes notice of it, and the inhabitants sing for joy. This lower world of mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, take notice of it. It pleased God to put honour on his Son, by wonderfully stirring up some of the wisest of the Gentiles to come a long journey to see and worship him at his birth. They were led by a miraculous star, signifying the birth of that glorious person who is the bright and morning-star, going before, and leading them to the very place where the, young child was. Some think they were instructed by the prophecy of Balaam, who dwelt in the eastern parts, and who foretold Christ’s coming as a star that should rise out of Jacob. Or they might be instructed by that general expectation there was of the Messiah’s coming about that 574 time, from the prophecies the Jews had of him in their dispersions in all parts of the world.
3. The next concomitant of the birth of Christ was his circumcision. But this may more properly be spoken of under another head, and so I will not insist upon it now.
next concomitant was his first coming into the second temple, when an
infant, on occasion of the purification of the blessed Virgin. We read,
5. The last
concomitant I shall mention is the sceptre’s departing from Judah, in
the death of Herod the Great. The sceptre had never totally departed
from Judah till now. Judah’s sceptre was greatly diminished in the
revolt of the ten tribes in Jeroboam’s time; and the sceptre departed
from Israel or Ephraim at the time of the captivity of the ten tribes
by Shalmaneser. But it remained in the tribe of Judah, under the kings
of the house of David. And when the tribes
of Judah and Benjamin were carried captive by Nebuchadnezzar, the
sceptre of Judah ceased for a little while, till the return from the
captivity under Cyrus: and then, though they were not an independent
government, as they had been before, but owed fealty to the kings of
Persia; yet their governor was of themselves, who had the power of life
and death, and they were governed by their own laws; and so Judah had a
lawgiver from between his feet during the Persian and Grecian
the latter part of the Grecian monarchy, the people were governed by
kings of their own, of the race of the Maccabees, for near a hundred
years; and after that they were subdued by the Romans. But yet the
Romans suffered them to be governed by their own laws, and to have a
king of their own, Herod the Great, who reigned about forty years, and
governed with proper kingly authority, only paying homage to the
Romans. But presently after Christ was born he died, as we have an
PART II. The Purchase of Redemption.
THE PURCHASE OF REDEMPTION
Having thus considered Christ’s coming into the world, and his taking on him our nature, to put himself in a capacity for the purchase of redemption, I come now to show what is intended by the purchase of redemption to make some general observations concerning those things by which this purchase was made—and then to consider those things more particularly which Christ did and suffered, by which that purchase was made.
The purchase itself, what?
By Christ purchasing redemption, two things are intended, his satisfaction, and his merit. All is done by the price that Christ lays down, which does two things: it pays our debt, and so it satisfies; it procures our title to happiness, and so it merits. The satisfaction of Christ is to free us from misery, and the merit of Christ is to purchase happiness for us.
The word purchase, in this connexion, is taken either more strictly or more largely. It is oftentimes used more strictly, to signify only the merit of Christ; and sometimes more largely, to signify both his satisfaction and merit. Indeed most of the words used in this affair have various significations. Thus sometimes divines use merit for the whole price that Christ offered, both satisfactory, and positively meritorious. And so the word satisfaction is sometimes used, not only for his propitiation, but also for his meritorious obedience. For in some sense, not only suffering the penalty, but positively obeying, is needful to satisfy the law. The reason of this various use of these terms seems to be, that satisfaction and merit do not differ so much really as relatively. They both consist in paying a valuable price, a price of infinite value: but only that price, as it respects a debt to be paid, is called satisfaction; and as it respects a positive good to be obtained, is called merit. The difference between paying a debt and making a positive purchase is more relative than essential. He who lays down a price to pay a debt, does in some sense make a purchase: he purchases liberty from the obligation. And he who lays down a price to purchase a good, does as it were make satisfaction: he satisfies the conditional demands of him to whom he pays it. This may suffice concerning what is meant by the purchase of Christ.
Some general observations concerning those things by which this purchase was made.
1. And here observe, That whatever in Christ had the nature of satisfaction, was by virtue of the suffering or humiliation that was in it; but whatever had the nature of merit, was by virtue of the obedience or righteousness there was in it. The satisfaction of Christ consists in his answering the demands of the law on man, which were consequent on the breach of the law. These were answered by suffering the penalty of the law. The merit of Christ consists in what he did to answer the demands, which were prior to man’s breach of the law, or to fulfil what the law demanded before man sinned, which was obedience.
The satisfaction or propitiation of Christ consists either in his suffering evil, or his being subject to abasement. Christ did not only make satisfaction by proper suffering, but by whatever had the nature of humiliation and abasement of circumstances. Thus he made satisfaction by continuing under the power of death, while he lay buried in the grave; though neither his body nor soul properly endured any suffering after he was dead. Whatever Christ was subject to that was the judicial fruit of sin, had the nature of satisfaction for sin. But not only proper suffering, but all abasement and depression of the state and circumstances of mankind below its primitive honour and dignity, such as his body remaining under death, his body and soul remaining separate, &c. are the judicial fruits of sin. And all that Christ did in his state of humiliation, that had the nature of obedience, moral virtue or goodness, had the nature of merit, in it, and was part of the price with which he purchased happiness for the elect.
2. Both Christ’s satisfaction for sin, and also his meriting happiness by his righteousness, were carried on through the whole time of his humiliation. Christ’s satisfaction for sin was not by his last sufferings only, though it was principally by them; but all his sufferings, and all his humiliation, from the first moment of his incarnation to his resurrection, were propitiatory or satisfactory. Christ’s satisfaction was chiefly by his death, because his sufferings and humiliation in that was greatest. But all his other sufferings, and all his other humiliation, all along had the nature of satisfaction; the mean circumstances in which he was born; his being born of a poor virgin, in a stable, and laid in a manger; his taking the human nature upon him in its low state, and under those infirmities brought upon it by the fall; his being born in the form of sinful flesh, &c. And so all his sufferings in his infancy and 575childhood, and all that labour, contempt, reproach, temptation, and difficulty of any kind which he suffered through the whole course of his life, was of a propitiatory and satisfactory nature.—And so his purchase of happiness by his righteousness was also carried on through the whole time of his humiliation till his resurrection: not only in that obedience he performed through the course of his life, but also in the obedience he performed in laying down his life.
3. It was by the same things that Christ hath satisfied God’s justice, and also purchased eternal happiness. He did not make satisfaction by some things, and then work out righteousness by other different things; but in the same acts by which he wrought out righteousness, he also made satisfaction, but only taken in a different relation. One and the same act of Christ, considered with respect to the obedience there was in it, was part of his righteousness, and purchased heaven: but considered with respect to the self-denial, and difficulty, and humiliation, with which he performed it, had the nature of satisfaction for sin, and procured our pardon. Thus his going about doing good, preaching the gospel, and teaching his disciples, was a part of his righteousness, and the purchase of heaven, as it was done in obedience to the Father; and the same was a part of his satisfaction, as he did it with great labour, trouble, and weariness, and under great temptations exposing himself hereby to reproach and contempt. So his laving down his life had the nature of satisfaction to God’s offended justice, considered as his bearing punishment in our stead: but considered as an act of obedience to God, who had given him this command, that he should lay down his life for sinners, it was a part of his righteousness and purchase, and as much the principal part of his righteousness as it was the principal part of his satisfaction. And to instance in his circumcision, what he suffered in it, had the nature of satisfaction: the blood that was shed therein was propitiatory blood; but as it was a conformity to the law of Moses, it was part of his meritorious righteousness. Though it was not properly the act of human nature, he being an infant; yet the human nature being the subject of it, and being the act of his person, it was accepted as an act of his obedience, as our mediator.—And even his being born in such a low condition, has the nature of satisfaction by reason of the humiliation that was in it; and of righteousness, as it was the act of his person in obedience to the Father, what the will of the human nature did acquiesce in, though there was no act of the will of the human nature prior to it.—These things may suffice to have been observed in general, concerning the purchase Christ made of redemption.
Those things in particular by which the purchase was made.—Christ’s obedience and righteousness.
I now proceed to consider the things that passed during the time of Christ’s humiliation, and first, with respect to his obedience and righteousness. And this is subject to a threefold distribution. I shall therefore consider his obedience, with respect to the laws which he obeyed—the different stages of his life in which he performed it—and the virtues he exercised in his obedience.
I. The first distribution of the acts of Christ’s righteousness is with respect to the laws which he obeyed.
But here it must be observed in general, that all the precepts which
Christ obeyed may be reduced to one law, and that is what the apostle
calls the law of works,
This law of works indeed includes all the laws of God that ever have been given to mankind; for it is a general rule of the law of works, and indeed of the law of nature, That God is to be obeyed, and that he must be submitted to in whatever positive precept he is pleased to give. It is a rule of the law of works, That men should obey their earthly parents: and it is certainly as much a rule of the same law, That we should obey our heavenly Father: and so the law of works requires obedience to all the positive commands of God. It required Adam’s obedience to that positive command, Not to eat of the forbidden fruit; and it required obedience of the Jews to all the positive commands of their institution. When God commanded Jonah to arise and go to Nineveh, the law of works required him to obey: and so it required Christ’s obedience to all the positive commands which God gave him.
But, more particularly, the commands of God which Christ obeyed, were of three kinds; they were such as he was subject to either merely as man, or as he was a Jew, or purely as Mediator.
1. He obeyed those commands which he was subject to merely as man. These were the commands of the moral law, which was the same with that which was given at mount Sinai, written in two tables of stone, which are obligatory on mankind of all ages and all nations of the world.
2. He obeyed all those laws he was subject to as he was a Jew. Thus he was subject to the ceremonial law, and was conformed to it. He was conformed to it in his being circumcised the eighth day; and he strictly obeyed it in going up to Jerusalem to the temple three times a year; at least after he was come to the age of twelve years, which seems to have been the age when the males began to go up to the temple. And so Christ constantly attended the service of the temple, and of the synagogues.
this head of his obedience may be reduced his submission to John’s
baptism. For it was a special command to the Jews, to go forth to John
the Baptist, and be baptized of him; and therefore Christ, being a Jew,
was subject to this command: and therefore, when he came to be baptized
of John, and John objected, that he had more need to come to him to be
baptized of him, he gives this reason for it, That it was needful that
he should do it, that he
might fulfil all righteousness. (See
3. Christ was subject to the mediatorial law;
or that which related purely to his mediatorial office. Such were the
commands which the Father gave him to teach such doctrines, to preach
the gospel, to work such miracles, to call such disciples, to appoint
such ordinances, and finally to lay down his life: for he did all these
things in obedience to the commands he had received of the Father, as
he often tells us, (
Christ’s righteousness, by which he merited heaven for himself, and all who believe in him, consists principally in his obedience to this mediatorial law: for in fulfilling this law consisted his chief work and business in the world. The history of the evangelists is chiefly taken up in giving an account of his obedience to this law. This part of his obedience was attended with the greatest difficulty; and therefore his obedience in it was most meritorious. What Christ had to do in the world by virtue of his being Mediator, was infinitely more difficult than what he had to do merely as a man, or as a Jew. To his obedience to this mediatorial law belongs his going through his last sufferings, beginning with his agony in the garden, and ending with his resurrection.
As the obedience of the first Adam, wherein his righteousness would have consisted, if he had stood, would have mainly consisted in his obedience to that special law to which he was subject as moral head and surety of mankind, even the command of abstaining from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; so the obedience of the second Adam, wherein his righteousness consists, lies mainly in his obedience to that special law to which he was subject as mediator and surety for man.
Before I proceed to the next distribution of Christ’s righteousness, I would observe three things concerning his obedience to these laws.
576 1. He performed that obedience to them which was in every respect perfect. It was perfect with respect to the work commanded; and the principle from which he obeyed. It was perfect with respect to the end he acted for; he never had any by-ends, but aimed perfectly at such as the law of God required. It was perfect with respect to the manner of performance: every circumstance of each act was perfectly conformed to the command. It was perfect with respect to the degree of the performance: he acted wholly up to the rule.—It was perfect with respect to the constancy of obedience, without any interruption; and with respect to perseverance. He held out in perfect obedience to the very end, in all the changes he passed through, and all the trials that were before him.
The meritoriousness of Christ’s obedience, depends on the perfection of it. If it had failed in any instance, it could not have been meritorious: for imperfect obedience is not accepted as any obedience at all in the sight of the law of works, to which Christ was subject. That is not accepted as obedience to a law that does not fully answer it.
2. Christ’s obedience was performed through the greatest trials and temptations that ever any obedience was. His obedience was attended with the greatest difficulties, and most extreme abasement; which was another thing that rendered it more meritorious and thankworthy. To obey another when his commands are easy, is not so worthy, as it is to obey when it cannot be done without great difficulty.
3. He performed this obedience with infinite respect to God, and the honour of his law. The obedience he performed was with infinitely greater love to God, and regard to his authority, than that of angels. The angels perform their obedience with a sinless perfection of love; but Christ performed his with infinite love. Though the human nature of Christ was not capable of love absolutely infinite, yet Christ’s obedience in that nature, is the obedience of his person, as God-man; and therefore there was infinite love manifest in that obedience. And this, together with the infinite dignity of the person who obeyed, rendered his obedience infinitely meritorious.
II. The second distribution of the acts of Christ’s obedience, is with respect to the different parts of his life, wherein they were performed. And in this respect they may be divided into those which were performed in private life, and those which were performed in his public ministry.
1st, Those acts he performed during his private life.—He
was perfectly obedient in his childhood. He infinitely differed from
other children, who, as soon as they begin to act, begin to sin and
rebel. He was subject to his earthly parents, though he was Lord of
2dly, Those acts which he performed during his public ministry, which began when he was about thirty years of age, and continued for the three last years and a half of his life.—Most of the evangelic history is taken up in giving an account of what passed during that time. Indeed all the history of Matthew, except the two first chapters; the whole of Mark; all the gospel of John; and all of Luke, except the two first chapters; excepting also what we find in the evangelists concerning the ministry of John the Baptist. Christ’s first appearing in his public ministry, is what is often called his coming in Scripture. Thus John speaks of Christ’s coming as future, though he had been born long before.
Concerning the public ministry of Christ, I would observe the following things.
1. The forerunner
of Christ’s coming in his public ministry was John the Baptist. He came
preaching repentance for the remission of sins, to make way for
Christ’s coming, agreeable to the prophecies of him,
John the Baptist’s ministry
consisted principally in preaching the law, to awaken and convince men
of sin, to prepare them for the coming of Christ, and to comfort them,
as the law is to prepare the heart for the entertainment of the gospel.
A very remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God attended John’s
ministry; and the effect of it was, that Jerusalem, and all Judea, and
all the region round about Jordan, were awakened and convinced. They
went out to him, and
submitted to his baptism, confessing their sins. John was the greatest
of all the prophets who came before Christ,
2. Christ’s entrance on his public ministry was by baptism, followed with the temptation
in the wilderness. His baptism was as it were his solemn inauguration,
by which he entered on his ministry; and was attended with his being
anointed with the Holy Ghost, in a solemn and visible manner, the Holy
Ghost descending upon him symbolically, in a visible shape like a dove,
attended with a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in
whom I am well
3. I would take notice of the work in which Christ was employed during his ministry. And here are three things chiefly to be noticed, viz. his preaching, his working of miracles, and his calling and appointing disciples and ministers of his kingdom.
(1.) His preaching
the gospel. Great part of the work of his public ministry consisted in
this; and much of that obedience by which he purchased salvation for
us, was in his speaking those things which the Father commanded him. He
more clearly and abundantly revealed the mind and will of God, than
ever it had been revealed before. He came from the bosom of the Father,
perfectly knew his mind, and was in the best capacity to reveal it. As
the sun, as soon as it
is risen, begins to shine; so Christ, as soon as he came into his
public ministry, began to enlighten the world with his doctrine. As the
law was given at mount Sinai, so Christ delivered his evangelical
doctrine, (full of blessings, and not curses,) to a multitude on a
he preached, he did not teach as the scribes, but as one having
authority; so that his hearers “were astonished at his doctrine:”
did not reveal the mind and will of God in the style of the prophets,
as, “Thus saith the Lord;” but in such a style as this, “I say unto
you,” “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” He delivered his doctrines, not
only as the doctrines of God the Father, but as his own doctrines. He
gave forth commands, not (as the prophets were wont to do) as God’s
commands, but as his own. He spake in such a style as this, “This is my
(2.) Another thing that Christ was employed in during 577 the course of his ministry, was working miracles. Concerning which we may observe,—Their multitude. Besides particular instances, we often have an account of multitudes coming at once with diseases, and his healing them. They were works of mercy. In them was displayed not only his infinite power and greatness, but his infinite mercy and goodness. He went about doing good, healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and the proper use of their limbs to the lame and halt; feeding the hungry, cleansing the leprous, and raising the dead.
They were almost all of them such as had been spoken of as the peculiar works of God, in the Old Testament. So with respect to stilling the sea,
They were in general such works as were images of the great work which he came to work on man’s heart;
representing that inward, spiritual cleansing, healing, renovation, and
resurrection, of which all his redeemed are the subjects.—He wrought them by his own power, and not as the other
prophets did. They were wont to work all their miracles
in the name of the Lord; but Christ wrought in his own name. Moses was
forbidden to enter into Canaan, because he seemed by his speech to
assume to himself the honour of working only one miracle. Nor did
Christ work miracles as the apostles did; but by his own authority and
will: Thus, saith he, “I will, be thou clean,”
) Another thing that Christ did in the course of his ministry, was to
call his disciples. He called many disciples, whom he employed as
ministers. He sent seventy at one time in this work: but there were
twelve that he set apart as apostles, who were the grand ministers of
his kingdom, and as it were the twelve foundations of his church. (See
4. I would observe how he finished his ministry. And this was, in giving his dying counsels to his disciples, and all that should be his disciples, which we have recorded particularly in the 1—In instituting a solemn memorial of his death, the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, wherein we have a representation of his body broken, and of his blood shed.—In offering up himself a sacrifice, to God in his last sufferings. This act he did as God’s minister, as God’s anointed priest; and it was the greatest act of his public ministry, the greatest act of his obedience, by which he purchased heaven for believers. The priests of old used to do many other things as God’s ministers; but the highest execution of their office was their actually offering sacrifice on the altar. So the greatest thing that Christ did in the execution of his priestly office, and the greatest thing that he ever did, and the greatest thing that ever was done, was the offering up himself a sacrifice to God. Herein he was the antetype of all that had been done by all the priests, in all their sacrifices and offerings, from the beginning of the world.
III. The third distribution of the acts by which Christ purchased redemption, regards the virtues that he exercised and manifested in them. Christ in doing his work for our redemption, exercised every possible virtue and grace. Indeed there are some particular virtues that sinful man may have, which were not in Christ; not from any defect of virtue, but because his virtue was perfect, and without defect. Such is the virtue of repentance, brokenness of heart for sin, mortification, and denying of lust. Christ had no sin of his own to repent of, nor any lust to deny. But all virtues which do not presuppose sin, were in him in a higher degree than in any mere creature. Every virtue in him was perfect. Virtue itself was greater in him than in any other; and it was under greater advantages to shine in him than in any other. Strict virtue shines most when most tried: but never any virtue had such trials as Christ’s had.
The virtue that Christ exercised in his work may be divided into three sorts, viz. the virtues which more immediately respect God, those which immediately respected himself, and those which immediately respect men.
1. Those virtues which more immediately respect God. There appeared in him a holy fear and reverence towards God the Father. Christ had a greater trial of his virtue in this respect than any other had, from the honourableness of his person. This was the temptation of the angels that fell to cast off their worship of God and reverence of his majesty, that they were beings of such exalted dignity themselves. But Christ was infinitely more worthy and honourable than they; for he was the eternal Son of God, and his person was equal to the person of the Father: and yet, as he had taken on him the office of mediator, and the nature of man, he was full of reverence towards God. He manifested a wonderful love toward God. The angels give great testimonies of their love towards God, in their constancy and agility in doing his will; and many saints have given great testimonies of their love, who, from love to God, endured great labours and sufferings: but none ever such testimonies of love to God as Christ has given. He manifested the most wonderful submission to the will of God. Never was any one’s submission so tried as his was. And he manifested the most wonderful spirit of obedience that ever was manifested.
2. In this work he most wonderfully manifested those virtues which more immediately respected himself; as humility, patience, and contempt of the world. Christ, though he was the most excellent and honourable, yet was the most humble;
yea, he was the most humble of all creatures. No angel or man ever
equalled him in humility, though he was the highest in dignity and
honourableness. Christ would have been under the
greatest temptations to pride, if it had been possible for any thing to
be a temptation to him. The temptation of the angels that fell was the
dignity of their nature, and the honourableness of their circumstances;
but Christ was infinitely more honourable than they. The human nature
of Christ was so honoured as to be in the same person with the eternal
Son of God, who was equal with God; and yet that human nature was not
at all lifted up with pride. Nor was the man Christ Jesus at all lifted
up with pride with all those wonderful works which he wrought, of
healing the sick, curing the blind, lame, and maimed, and raising the
dead. And though he knew that God had appointed him to be the king over
heaven and earth, angels and men, as he says,
3. Christ, in a wonderful manner, exercised those virtues which more immediately respect other men. And these may be summed up under two heads, viz. meekness, and love.
meekness was his humble calmness of spirit under the provocations that
he met with. The greatness of provocation lies in two things, viz.
in the degree of opposition by which the provocation is given; and,
secondly, in the degree of the unreasonableness of that opposition, or
in its being very causeless, and without reason, and the great degree
of obligation to the contrary. Now, if we consider both these things,
no man ever met with such provocations
as Christ did, when he was upon earth. How much he was hated, what
abuses he suffered from the vilest of men; how great his sufferings,
and how spiteful and contemptuous they were in offering him those
abuses! How causeless and unreasonable were these abuses, how
undeserving he was of them, yea how much deserving of the contrary, viz.
of love, and honour, and good treatment at their hands! If we consider
these things, no man ever met with a thousandth part of the provocation
met with from men: and yet how meek was he under all! how composed and
quiet his spirit! how far from being in a ruffle and tumult! When he
was reviled, he reviled not again; and as a sheep before her shearers
is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. No appearance was there of a
revengeful spirit: on the contrary, what a spirit of forgiveness did he
exhibit! so that he fervently and effectually prayed for their
forgiveness, when they were in the highest act of provocation that ever
perpetrated, viz. nailing him to the cross:
And never did there appear such an instance of love to men. Christ’s love to men, especially in going through his last sufferings, and offering up his life and soul under those sufferings, which was his greatest act of love, was far beyond all parallel. There have been very remarkable manifestations of love in some of the saints, as in the apostle Paul, the apostle John, and others; but the love to men that Christ showed when on earth, as much exceeded the love of all other men, as the ocean exceeds a small stream.
And it is to be observed, that all the virtues which appeared in Christ shone brightest in the close of his life, under the trials he met with then. Eminent virtue always shows brightest in the fire. Pure gold shows its purity chiefly in the furnace. It was chiefly under those trials which Christ underwent in the close of his life, that his love to God, his honour of God’s majesty, his regard to the honour of his law, his spirit of obedience, his humility, contempt of the world, his patience, meekness, and spirit of forgiveness towards men, appeared. Indeed every thing that Christ did to work out redemption for us appears mainly in the close of his life. Here mainly is his satisfaction for sin, and here chiefly is his merit of eternal life for sinners, and here chiefly appears the brightness of his example, which he hath set us for imitation.—Thus we have taken a brief view of the things whereby the purchase of redemption was made with respect to his righteousness that appeared in them.
Christ’s sufferings and humiliation.
Among those things in particular by which the purchase was made, we must reckon the sufferings and humiliation to which Christ was subject, whence arose the satisfaction he made for sin.
I. He was subject to uncommon humiliation and suffering in his infancy. His mother not only suffered in bearing him, but when her travail came upon her, it is said, “there was no room in the inn,”
II. Christ was subject to great humiliation in his private life at Nazareth. He there led a servile, obscure life, in a mean, laborious occupation; for he is called not only the carpenter’s son, but the carpenter:
III. Christ was the subject of great humiliation and suffering during his public life, from his baptism till the night wherein he was betrayed.
1. He suffered great poverty, so that he had not where to lay his head, (
2. He suffered great hatred and reproach.
He was despised and rejected of men; one of little account, slighted
for his low parentage, and his mean city Nazareth. He was reproached as
a glutton and drunkard, a friend of publicans and sinners; was called a
deceiver of the people; sometimes was called a madman, and a Samaritan,
and one possessed with a devil. (
He was thus hated and reproached by his own visible people:
3. He suffered the buffetings of Satan in an uncommon manner. One time in particular, he had a long conflict with the devil, when he was in the wilderness forty days, with wild beasts and devils; and was so exposed to the devil’s power, that he was carried about by him from place to place, while he was otherwise in a very suffering state.—So much for the humiliation and suffering of Christ’s public life, from his baptism to the night wherein he was betrayed.
I come now to his last humiliation and sufferings, from the evening of
the night wherein he was betrayed to his resurrection. And here was his
greatest humiliation and suffering, by which principally he made
satisfaction to the justice of God for the sins of men. First, his life
was sold by one of his own disciples for thirty pieces of silver; which
was the price of the life of a servant,
During the sufferings of the night, Peter, one of the chief of his own disciples, instead of standing by to comfort, appears ashamed to own him, and denies and renounces him with oaths and curses. And after the chief priests and elders had finished the night in so shamefully abusing him, in the morning, (the morning of the most wonderful day that ever was,) they led him away to Pilate, to be condemned to death by him, because they had not the power of life and death in their own hands. He is brought before Pilate’s judgment-seat, and there the priests and elders accuse him as a traitor. And when Pilate, upon examining into the matter, declared he found no fault in him, the Jews were but the more fierce and violent to have him condemned. Upon which Pilate, after clearing him, very unjustly brings him upon a second trial; and then not finding any thing against him, acquits him again. Pilate treats him as a poor worthless fellow; but is ashamed on so little pretence to condemn him as a traitor.
And then he was sent to Herod to be tried by him, and was brought before his judgment-seat; his enemies followed, and virulently accused him before Herod. Herod does not condemn him as a traitor, or one that would set up for a king, but looks upon him as Pilate did, as a poor worthless creature, not worthy to be noticed, and makes a mere laugh of the Jews accusing him as dangerous to Caesar, as one setting up to be a king against him; and therefore, in derision, dresses him up in a mock robe, makes sport of him, and sends him back through the streets of Jerusalem to Pilate with the mock robe on.
the Jews prefer Barabbas before him, and are instant and violent with
loud vociferations to Pilate, to crucify him. So Pilate, after he had
cleared him twice, and Herod once, very unrighteously brings him on
trial the third time, to try if he could not find something sufficient
to crucify him. Christ was stripped and scourged: thus he gave his back
to the smiters. After that, though Pilate still declared that he found
no fault in him; yet so unjust was he, that
for fear of the Jews he delivered Christ to be crucified. But before
they execute the sentence, his spiteful and cruel enemies take the
pleasure of mocking him again; they get round him, and make a set
business of it. They stripped him, put on him a scarlet robe, a reed in
his hand, and a crown of thorns on his head. Both Jews and Roman
soldiers were united in the transaction; they bow the knee before him,
and in derision cry,
length, being come to mount Calvary, they execute the sentence which
Pilate had so unrighteously pronounced. They nail him to his cross by
his hands and feet, then raise it erect, and fix one end in the ground,
he being still suspended on it by the nails which pierced his hands and
feet. Now Christ’s sufferings are come to the extremity: now the cup,
which he so earnestly prayed might pass from him, is come; he must, he
does drink it. In those days crucifixion was
the most tormenting kind of death by which any were wont to be
executed. There was no death wherein the person experienced so much of
mere torment: and hence the Roman word, which signifies torment,
is taken from this kind of death.—Besides what our Lord endured in this
excruciating corporeal death, he endured vastly more in his soul. Now
was that travail of his soul, of which we read in the prophet; now it
pleased God to bruise him, and to put him to grief; now he poured out
unto death, as in
Now under all these sufferings the Jews still mock him; and wagging
their heads say, “Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in
three days, save thyself: if thou be the Son of God, come down from the
And even the chief priests, scribes, and elders, joined in the cry, saying, “He saved others, himself he cannot save.
“ And probably the devil at the same time tormented him to the utmost of his power; and hence it is said,
Under these sufferings, Christ, having cried out once and again with a loud voice, at last said, IT IS FINISHED, (
Christ being thus brought under the power of death, continued under it till the morning of next day but one. Then was finished that great work, the purchase of our redemption, for which such great preparation had been made from the beginning of the world. Then was finished all that was required in order to satisfy the threatenings of the law, and all that was necessary in order to satisfy divine justice; then the utmost that vindictive justice demanded, even the whole debt, was paid. Then was finished the whole of the purchase of eternal life. And now there is no need of any thing more to be done towards a purchase of salvation for sinners; nor has ever any thing been done since, nor will any thing more be done for ever and ever.
PART III. Improvement of the Second PERIOD.
IMPROVEMENT OF THE SECOND PERIOD.
In surveying the history of redemption, we have now shown how this work was carried on through the two former of the three main periods into which this whole space of time was divided, viz. from the fall to the incarnation of Christ, and from thence to the end of the time of Christ’s humiliation. In the first of these periods, we have particularly explained how God prepared the way for Christ’s appearing and purchasing redemption; and in the second period, how that purchase was made and finished. I would now make some improvement of what has been said on both these subjects considered conjunctly.
An use of reproof.
I begin with an use of reproof; a reproof of unbelief, of self-righteousness, and of a careless neglect of the salvation of Christ.
1. How greatly do these things reprove those who do not believe in, but reject, the Lord Jesus Christ! i.e. all those who do not heartily receive him. Persons may receive him in profession outwardly, and may wish that they had some of those benefits that Christ has purchased, and yet their hearts not receive him. They may be hearty in nothing that they do towards Christ; they may have no high esteem of, nor any sincere respect to, Christ; they may never have opened the door of their heart to him, but have kept him shut out all their days, ever since the salvation has been offered to them. Though their hearts have been opened to others, their door flung wide open to them, with free admittance at all times; though they have been embraced, and the thrones of their hearts have been allowed them; yet Christ has always been shut out, and they have been deaf to all his calls. They never could find an inclination of heart to receive him, nor would they ever trust in him.
Let me now call upon such to consider, how great is their sin, in thus rejecting Jesus Christ. You slight the glorious person, for whose coming God made such great preparation in such a series of wonderful providences from the beginning of the world, and whom, after all things were made ready, God sent into the world, bringing to pass a thing before unknown, viz. the union of the divine nature with the human in one person. You have been guilty of slighting that great Saviour, who, after such preparation, actually accomplished the purchase of redemption; and who, after he had spent three or four and thirty years in poverty, labour, and contempt, in purchasing redemption, at last finished the purchase by closing his life under such extreme sufferings as you have heard; and so by his death, and continuing for a time under the power of death, completed the whole. This is the person you reject and despise. You make light of all the glory of his person, and of all the glorious love of God the Father, in sending him into the world, and all his wonderful love appearing in the whole of this affair. That precious stone which God hath laid in Zion for a foundation in such a manner, and by such wonderful works as you have heard, is a stone set at nought by you.
Sinners sometimes are ready to wonder why unbelief should be looked upon as a great sin; but if you consider what you have heard, how can you wonder? If this Saviour is so great, and this work so great, and such great things have been done in order to it; truly there is no cause of wonder that the rejection of this Saviour is so provoking to God. It brings greater guilt than the sins of the worst of heathens, who never heard of those things, nor have had this Saviour offered to them.
II. What has been said, affords matter of reproof to those who, instead of believing in Christ, trust in themselves for salvation. Is it not a common thing with men to take it upon themselves to do that great work which Christ came into the world to do? to trust in their prayers, their good conversations, the pains they take in religion, the reformation of their lives, and their self-denial, in order to recommend them to God, to make some atonement for their past sins? Let such consider three things :
1. How great a thing that is which you take upon you. It is to do the work of the great Saviour of the world.—Though you are poor, worthless, vile, and polluted, yet you arrogantly take upon you that very work for which the only-begotten Son of God became man; and in order to which God employed four thousand years in all the great dispensations of his providence, aiming chiefly to make way for Christ’s coming to do this work. This is the work that you foolishly think yourself sufficient for; as though your prayers, and other performances, were excellent enough for this purpose. Consider how vain is the thought which you entertain of yourself. How must such arrogance appear in the sight of Christ, whom it cost so much. It was not to be obtained even by him, so great and glorious a person, at a cheaper rate than his going through a sea of blood, and passing through the midst of the furnace of God’s wrath. And how vain must your arrogance appear in the sight of God, when he sees you imagining yourself sufficient, and your worthless, polluted performance excellent enough, for the accomplishing of that work of his own Son, to prepare the way for which he was employed in ordering all the great affairs of the world for so many ages!
If there be ground for you to trust, as you do, in your own
righteousness, then all that Christ did to purchase salvation, and all
that God did from the fall of man to prepare the way for it, is in vain.
Your self-righteousness charges God with the greatest folly, as though
he has done all things in vain, to bring about an accomplishment of
what you alone, with your poor polluted prayers, and the little pains
you take in religion, are sufficient to
accomplish for yourself. For if you can appease God’s anger, and
commend yourself to him by these means, then you have no need of
If you can do this by your prayers and good works, Christ might have spared his pains; he might have spared his blood; he might have kept within the bosom of his Father, without coming down into this evil world to be 581despised, reproached, and persecuted to death. God needed not to have busied himself, as he did for four thousand years, causing so many changes in the state of the world all that while, in order to bring about that which you can accomplish in a few days, only with the trouble of a few religious performances. Consider, what greater folly could you have devised to charge upon God than this, that all those things were done so needlessly; when, instead of all this, he might only have called you forth, and committed the business to you, which you think you can do so easily. Alas! how blind are natural men! and especially how vain are the thoughts which they have of themselves! How ignorant of their own littleness and pollution! What great things do they assume to themselves!
3. You that trust to your own righteousness, arrogate to yourselves the honour of the greatest thing that ever God himself did. You seem not only sufficient to perform divine works, but such is your pride and vanity, that you are not content without taking upon you to do the very greatest work that ever God himself wrought. You see by what has been said, how God has subordinated all his other works to this of redemption. God’s works of providence are greater than those of creation; and all his works of providence, from the beginning of the generations of men, were in order to make way for the purchasing of redemption. To take on yourself to work out redemption, is a greater thing than if you had taken it upon you to create a world. What a figure you would make, if you should seriously go about to create a world: or decking yourself with majesty, should pretend to speak the word of power, and call an universe out of nothing, intending to go on in order, and say,” Let there be light; Let there be a firmament,” &c. But then consider, that in attempting to work out redemption for yourself, you attempt a greater thing than this, and are serious in it, and will not be dissuaded from it. You strive in it, are full of the thought that you are sufficient for it, and big with hopes of accomplishing it.
You take upon you to do the very greatest and most difficult part of this work, viz. to purchase redemption. Christ can accomplish other parts of this work without cost; but this part cost him his life, as well as innumerable pains and labours. Yet this is that part which self-righteous persons go about to accomplish for themselves. If all the angels in heaven had been sufficient for this work, would God have set himself to effect such things as he did in order to it? and would he ever have sent his own Son, the Creator of the angels, into the world, to have done and suffered such things?
What self-righteous persons take to themselves, is the same work that Christ was engaged in when he was in his agony and bloody sweat, and when he died on the cross, which was the greatest thing that ever the eyes of angels beheld. Great as it is, they imagine they can do the same that Christ accomplished by it. Their self-righteousness does in effect charge Christ’s offering up himself in these sufferings, as the greatest instance of folly that ever men or angels saw, instead of being the most glorious display of the divine wisdom and grace. Yea, self-righteousness makes all that Christ did through the whole course of his life, all that he said and suffered, and his incarnation itself, and not only so, but all that God had been doing in the great dispensations of his providence from the beginning of the world to that time, as nothing but a scene of the most wild, extreme, and transcendent folly.
Is it any wonder, then, that a self-righteous spirit is so represented in Scripture, and spoken of, as that which is most fatal to the souls of men? And is it any wonder, that Christ is represented in Scripture as being so provoked with the Pharisees and others, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and were proud of their goodness, and thought that their own performances were a valuable price of God’s favour and love?
Let persons hence be warned against a self-righteous spirit. You that are seeking salvation, and taking pains in religion, take heed to yourselves that you do not trust in what you do. Harbour no such thoughts, that God now, seeing how much you are reformed, how you are sometimes affected, will be pacified towards you, and will not be so angry for your former sins; that you shall gain on him by such things, and draw his heart to show you mercy. If you entertain the thought, that God is obliged to do it, and does not act justly if he refuse to regard your prayers and pains; if you quarrel with God, and complain of him for not doing it, this shows what your opinion is of your own righteousness, viz. that it is a valuable price of salvation, and ought to be accepted of God as such. Such complaining of God, and quarrelling with him, for not taking more notice of your righteousness, plainly shows that you are guilty of arrogance, thinking yourself sufficient to offer the price of your own salvation.
III. What has been said on this subject, affords matter of reproof to those who carelessly neglect the salvation of Christ. These live a senseless kind of life, neglect the business of religion and their own souls, not taking any course to get an interest in Christ, or what he has done and suffered, or any part in that glorious salvation he has purchased. They have their minds taken up about the gains of the world, or the vanities and pleasures of youth, and make light of what they hear of Christ’s salvation, to that degree, that they do not at present so much as seek after it. Let me here apply myself to you in some expostulatory interrogations.
Shall so many prophets, and kings, and righteous men, have their minds
so much taken up with the prospect, that the purchase of salvation was
to be wrought out in ages long after their death; and will you neglect
it when actually accomplished? You have heard what great account the
church in all ages made of the future redemption of Christ; how
joyfully they expected it, how they spoke of it, how they studied and
searched into these things, how they sung joyful
songs, and had their hearts greatly engaged about it, though they did
not expect that it would be accomplished till many ages after their
these things are declared to you as actually fulfilled. The church now
has seen accomplished all those great things which they so joyfully
prophesied of; and you are abundantly shown how those things were
Have the angels been so engaged about this salvation which is by Christ
ever since the fall of man, though they are not immediately concerned
in it, and will you who need it, and have it offered to you, be so
careless about it? You have heard how the angels at first were
subjected to Christ as mediator, and how they have all along been
ministering spirits to him in this affair. In all the great
dispensations which you have heard of from the beginning of the world,
they have been active and as a flame of fire
582in this affair, being most diligently
employed as ministering spirits to minister to Christ in this great
affair of man’s redemption. And when Christ came, how engaged were
their minds! They came to Zacharias, to inform him of the coming of
Christ’s forerunner.—They came to the Virgin Mary, to inform her of the
approaching birth of Christ. They came to Joseph, to warn him of the
danger which threatened the new-born Saviour, and to point
out to him the means of safety. And how were their minds engaged at the
time of the birth of Christ! The whole multitude of the heavenly hosts
sang praises upon the occasion, saying, ” Glory to God in the highest,
on earth peace, good will towards men.” And afterwards, from time to
time, they ministered to Christ when on earth; at the time of his
temptation, of his agony in the garden, at his resurrection, and at his
ascension. All these things show, that they were greatly engaged in
affair; and the Scripture informs us, that they pry into these things:
3. Did Christ labour so hard, and suffer so much to procure this salvation, and is it not worth the while for you to be at some labour in seeking it? Did our salvation lie with such weight on the mind of Christ, as to induce him to become man, to suffer even death itself, in order to procure it? And is it not worth the while for you, who need this salvation, and must perish eternally without it, to take earnest pains to obtain an interest in it after it is procured, and all things are ready?
4. Shall the great God be so concerned about this salvation, as often to overturn the world to make way for it; and when all is done, is it not worth your seeking after? What great, what wonderful things has he done; removing and setting up kings, raising up a great number of prophets, separating a distinct people from the rest of the world, overturning nations and kingdoms, and often the state of the world; and so has continued bringing about one change and revolution after another for forty centuries in succession, to make way for the procuring of this salvation! And when at the close of these ages, the great Saviour comes, passing through a long series of reproach and suffering, and then suffering all the waves and billows of God’s wrath for men’s sins, insomuch that they overwhelmed his soul; after all these things done to procure salvation for sinners, is it not worthy of your being so much concerned about it, but that it should be thrown by, and made nothing of, in comparison of worldly gain, gay clothing, or youthful diversions, and other such trifling things?
that you who live negligent of this salvation, would consider what you
do! What you have heard from this subject, may show you what reason
there is in that exclamation of the apostle,
An use of encouragement.
I will conclude with a second use, of encouragement to burdened souls to put their trust in Christ for salvation. To all such as are not careless and negligent, but make seeking an interest in Christ their main business, being sensible in some measure of their necessity, and afraid of the wrath to come; to such, what has been said on this subject holds forth great matter of encouragement, to venture their souls on the Lord Jesus Christ. And as motives proper to excite you so to do, let me lead you to consider two things in particular.
1. The completeness
of the purchase which has been made. You have heard, that this work of
purchasing salvation was wholly finished during the time of Christ’s
humiliation. When Christ rose from the dead, and was exalted from that
abasement to which he submitted for our salvation, the purchase of
eternal life was completely made, so that there was no need of any
thing more to be done in order to it. But now the servants were sent
forth with a message,
For Christ to reject one that thus comes to him, would be to frustrate
all those great things which God brought to pass from the fall of man
to the incarnation of Christ. It would also frustrate all that Christ
did and suffered while on earth; yea, it would frustrate the
incarnation itself. All the great things done were for that end, that
those might be saved who should come to Christ. Therefore you may be
sure Christ will not be backward in saving those who come
to him, and trust in him; for he has no desire to frustrate himself in
his own work. Neither will God the Father refuse you; for he has no
desire to frustrate himself in all that he did for so many hundreds and
thousands of years, to prepare the way for the salvation of sinners by
Christ. Come, therefore, hearken to the sweet and earnest calls of
Christ to your soul. Do as he invites and as he commands you,
PERIOD III. From Christ's Resurrection the End of the World.
FROM CHRIST’S RESURRECTION TO THE END OF THE WORLD.
In discoursing on this subject, we have already shown how the work of redemption was carried on through the two first of the THREE PERIODS into which we divided the whole space of time from the fall to the end of the world. We are now come to the third and last period, beginning with Christ’s resurrection; and would show, that the 583 space of time from the end of Christ’s humiliation to the end of the world is all taken up in bringing about the great effect or success of Christ’s purchase.
SECTION I. Scriptural Representations of this PERIOD.
Scriptural representations of this period.
Not but that there were great effects and glorious success of Christ’s purchase of redemption before, even from the beginning of the generations of men. But all that success which was before, was only preparatory, by way of anticipation, as some few fruits are gathered before the harvest. There was no more success before Christ came, than God saw needful to prepare the way for his coming. The proper time of the success or effect of Christ’s redemption is after the purchase has been made, as the proper time for the world to enjoy the light of the sun is the daytime, after the sun is risen, though we may have some small matter of it reflected from the moon and planets before. And even the success of Christ’s redemption while he himself was on earth, was very small in comparison of what it was after.
But, Christ having finished that greatest and most difficult of all works, now is come the time for obtaining the end, the glorious effect of it. Having gone through the whole course of his sufferings and humiliation, Christ is never to suffer any more. But now is the time for him to obtain the joy that was set before him. Having made his soul an offering for sin, now is the time for him to see his seed, to have a portion with the great, and to divide the spoil with the strong.
One design of
Christ in what he did in his humiliation, was to lay a foundation for
the overthrow of Satan’s kingdom; and now is come the time to effect
it, as Christ, a little before his crucifixion, said,
Before I enter on the consideration of any particular things accomplished in this period, I would briefly observe how the times of this period are represented in Scripture.
I. The times of this period, for the most part, are in the Old Testament called the latter days. We often, in the prophets of the Old Testament, read of things that should come to pass in the latter days, and sometimes in the last days, evidently referring to gospel times. They are called the latter days, and the last days; because this is the last period of the series of God’s providences on earth, the last period of the great work of redemption; which is as it were the sum of God’s works of providence; the last dispensation of the covenant of grace on earth.
II. The whole time of this period is sometimes in Scripture called the end of the world,
In the first place,
the carnal ordinances of the Jewish worship came to an end, in order to
make way for the establishment of that spiritual worship, which is to
endure to all eternity:
Because the world is thus coming to an end by various steps and degrees, the apostle perhaps uses this expression, that (not the end but) the ends of the world are come on us; as though the world has several endings one after another.—The gospel-dispensation is a finishing state: it is all spent in finishing things off which before had been preparing, or abolishing things which before had stood. It is all spent as it were in summing things up, and bringing them to their issues, and their proper fulfilment. Now all the old types are fulfilled, and the predictions of all the prophets from the beginning of the world shall be accomplished in this period.
III. That state of things which is attained in the events of this period is called a new heaven and a new earth: a
The end of God’s creating the world, was to prepare a kingdom for his Son, (for he is appointed heir of the world,) which should remain to all eternity. So far as the kingdom of Christ is set up in the world, so far is the world brought to its end, and the eternal state of things set up—so far are all the great changes and revolutions of the world brought to their everlasting issue, and all things come to their ultimate period—so far are the waters of the long channel of divine providence, which has so many branches, and so many windings, emptied into their proper ocean, which they have been seeking from the beginning of their course, and so are come to their rest. So far as Christ’s kingdom is established in the world, so far are things wound up and settled in their everlasting state, and a period put to the course of things in this changeable world; so far are the first heavens and the first earth come to an end, and the new heavens and the new earth, the everlasting heavens and earth, established in their room.—This leads me to observe,
IV. That the state of things which is attained by the events of this period, is what is so often called the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God.
We very often read in the New Testament of the kingdom of heaven. John
the Baptist preached, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand; and so
did Christ and his disciples after him; referring to something that the
Jews in those days expected, and called by that
name. They seem to have taken their expectation and the name chiefly
from that prophecy of Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream,
this kingdom of heaven is that evangelical state of things in the
church, and in the world, wherein consists the success of Christ’s
redemption in this period. There had been often great kingdoms set up
before; as the Babylonish, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman
monarchies. But Christ came to set up the last, which is not an earthly
kingdom, but a heavenly,
1. The setting up of
the kingdom of Christ is chiefly accomplished by four successive great
events, each of which is in Scripture called Christ’s coming in his kingdom. The first
is Christ’s appearing in those wonderful dispensations of providence in
the apostles’ days, in setting up his kingdom, and destroying its
enemies, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem. This is called
Christ’s coming in his kingdom,
2. Each of the three former of these is a lively image, or type, of the fourth and last, viz.
Christ’s coming to the final judgment, as the principal dispensations
of providence before were types of his first coming.—As Christ’s last
coming to judgment is accompanied with the resurrection of the dead, so
is each of the three foregoing with a spiritual resurrection. That
coming of Christ which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, was
preceded by a glorious
spiritual resurrection of souls in the calling of the Gentiles
through the preaching of the gospel. Christ s coming in Constantine’s
time, was accompanied with a glorious spiritual resurrection of
the greater part of the known world, in a restoration of it to a
visible church state, from a state of heathenism. Christ’s coming at
the destruction of Antichrist, will be attended with a spiritual resurrection of the church after it had been long as it were dead, in the times of
Antichrist. This is called the first resurrection in the
as Christ in the last judgment will gloriously manifest himself coming
in the glory of his Father, so in each of the three foregoing events
Christ gloriously manifested himself in sending judgments upon his
enemies, and in showing favour to his church. As the last coming of
Christ will be attended with a literal gathering together of the elect
from the four winds of heaven, so were each of the preceding attended
with a spiritual gathering in of the elect. As
this gathering together of the elect will be effected by God’s angels
with a great sound of a trumpet; (
By each of these comings of Christ, God works a glorious deliverance for his church. The first, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, was attended with bringing the church into the glorious state of the gospel. The second, which was in Constantine’s time, was accompanied with an advancement of the church into a state of liberty from persecution, the countenance of civil authority, and her triumph over heathen persecutors. The third, which shall be at the downfall of Antichrist, will be accompanied with an advancement of the church into that state of the glorious prevalence of truth, liberty, peace, and joy, which we so often read of in the prophetical parts of Scripture. The last will be attended with the advancement of the church to consummate glory in heaven.
Each of these comings of Christ is accompanied with a terrible destruction of the wicked, and the enemies of the church: the first, with the destruction of the persecuting Jews, which was amazingly terrible; the second, with dreadful judgments on the heathen persecutors of the church; the third, with the awful destruction of Antichrist, the most cruel and bitter enemy that ever the church had; the fourth, with divine wrath and vengeance on all the ungodly.—Further, there is in each of these comings of Christ an ending of the old, and a beginning of new, heavens and a new earth; or an end of a temporal state of things, and a beginning of an eternal state.
I would observe, that each of those four great dispensations which are
represented as Christ’s coming in his Kingdom, are but so many steps
and degrees of the accomplishment of one event. They are not the
setting up of so many distinct kingdoms of Christ; but only several
degrees of the accomplishment of that one event prophesied of,
When Christ came with the preaching of the apostles, to set up his
kingdom in the world, which dispensation ended with the destruction of
Jerusalem, then it was accomplished in a glorious degree; when
the heathen empire was destroyed in Constantine’s time, it was
fulfilled in a further degree; when Antichrist shall be destroyed, it
will be accomplished in a yet higher degree; but when the end of the world is come, then will it be accomplished in
its most perfect
degree of all. And because these four great events are but images one
of another, and the three former but types of the last, and since they
are all only several steps of the accomplishment of the same thing;
hence we find them all from time to time prophesied of under one, as in
the prophecies of Daniel, and in the
Thus it appears, that as there are several steps of the accomplishment of the kingdom of Christ, so in each one of them the event is accomplished in a further degree than in the foregoing. That in the time of Constantine was a greater and further accomplishment of the kingdom of Christ, than that which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem; that which shall be at the fall of Antichrist, will be a further accomplishment of the same thing, than that which took place in the time of Constantine; and so on with regard to each: so that the kingdom of Christ is gradually prevailing and growing by these several great steps of its fulfilment, from the time of Christ’s resurrection, to the end of the world.
5. The great providences of God between these four events, are to make way for the kingdom and glory of Christ in the great event following. Those dispensations of providence towards the church and the world, before the destruction of the heathen empire in the time of Constantine, seem all to have been to make way for the glory of Christ, and the happiness of the church in that event. And so the great providences after that, till the destruction of Antichrist, and the beginning of the glorious times of the church which follow, seem all calculated to prepare the way for the greater glory of Christ and his church in that event; and the following ones to the end of the world, seem to be for the greater manifestation of Christ’s glory at the consummation of all things.—Thus I thought it needful to observe those things in general concerning this last period, before I take notice of particular providences by which the work of redemption is carried on through this period, in their order.
Before I proceed, I will briefly answer an inquiry, viz. Why the setting up of Christ’s kingdom after his humiliation, should be so gradual, since God could easily have finished it at once?—Though it would be presumption in us to pretend to declare all the ends of God in this, yet doubtless much of his wisdom may be seen in it; and particularly in these two things.
1. In this way the glory of God’s wisdom is more visible to the observation of creatures. If it had been done at once, or in a very short time, there would not have been such opportunities for creatures to perceive and observe the particular steps of divine wisdom, as when the work is gradually accomplished, and one effect of his wisdom is held forth to observation after another. It is wisely determined of God, to accomplish his great design by a wonderful and long series of events, that the glory of his wisdom may be displayed, in the whole series of events, that the glory of his perfection may be seen, in particular successive manifestations. If all that glory which appears in these events had been manifested at once, it would nave been too much for us; it would have overpowered our sight and capacities.
2. Satan is more gloriously triumphed over.—God could easily, by an act of almighty power, at once have crushed Satan. But by giving him time to use his utmost subtlety to hinder the success of what Christ had done and suffered, he is not defeated merely by surprise, but has large opportunity to ply his utmost power and subtlety again and again, to strengthen his own interest all that he can by the work of many ages. Thus God destroys and confounds him, and sets up Christ’s kingdom time after time, in spite of all his subtle machinations and great works, and by every step advances it still higher and higher, till at length it is fully set up, and Satan perfectly and eternally vanquished.—I now proceed to take notice of the particular events, whereby, from the end of Christ’s humiliation to the end of the world, the success of Christ’s purchase has been or shall be accomplished.
SECTION II. How Christ was capacitated for effecting his Purpose.
How Christ was capacitated for effecting his purpose.
As the incarnation of Christ was necessary in order to his being in a near capacity for the purchase of redemption; so his resurrection and ascension were requisite in order to the success of his purchase.
I. His resurrection.
It was necessary in order to Christ’s obtaining the end and effect of
his purchase of redemption, that he should rise from the dead. For God
the Father had committed the whole affair of redemption to his Son,
that he should not only purchase it as priest, but actually bring it
about as king; and that he should do this as God-man. God the Father
would have nothing to do with fallen man in a way of mercy but by a
mediator. But in order that
Christ might accomplish the success of his own purchase as God-man, it
was necessary that he should rise from the dead. Therefore Christ,
after he had finished this purchase by death, rises from the dead, to
fulfil the end of his purchase. This matter God the Father had
committed unto him, that he might, as Lord of all, manage all to his
Christ’s resurrection (and so his ascension) was part of the success of
what Christ did and suffered in his humiliation. For though Christ did
not properly purchase redemption for himself, yet he purchased eternal life and glory for himself, as a reward of what he did and suffered:
This resurrection of Christ is the most joyful
event that ever came to pass; because hereby Christ rested from the
great and difficult work of purchasing redemption, and received God’s
testimony, that it was finished. The death of Christ was the greatest
and most wonderful event that ever came to pass; but that has a great
deal in it that is sorrowful. But by the resurrection of Christ, that
sorrow is turned into joy. The Head of the church, in that great
event, enters on the possession of eternal life; and the whole church is, as it were, begotten again to a lively hope,
It is further to be observed, that the day of the gospel most properly begins with the resurrection of Christ. Till Christ rose from the dead, the Old-Testament dispensation remained: but now it ceases, all being fulfilled that was shadowed forth in the typical ordinances of that dispensation. Here most properly is the end of the Old-Testament night; and Christ rising from the grave with joy and glory, was like the sun rising after a long night of darkness, appearing in joyful light to enlighten the world. Now that joyful dispensation begins, that glorious dispensation, of which the prophets testified so much. Now the gospel-sun is risen in his glory, and with healing in his wings, that those who fear God s name, may go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
II. Christ’s ascension
into heaven. In this I would include his sitting at the right hand of
God. For Christ’s ascension was nothing else, but ascending to God’s
right hand in glory. A deliverer of a people as their king, in order
that he may be under the best capacity for it, is first installed in
his throne. We are told, that Christ was exalted for this end, that he
might accomplish the success of his redemption:
ascension into heaven was, as it were, his solemn coronation, when the
Father set him upon the throne, and invested him with the glory of that
kingdom which he had purchased for himself that he might thereby obtain
the success of his redemption in conquering all his enemies:
The day of Christ’s ascension was doubtless a joyful, glorious day in heaven. And as heaven received Christ, God-man, as its king, so doubtless it received a great accession of glory and happiness. So that the times in both parts of the church, that part which is in heaven, and that which is on earth, are become more glorious since Christ’s humiliation than before.—So much for those things whereby Christ was put into the best capacity for obtaining the success of redemption.
SECTION III. Established Means of Success.
Established means of success.
Consider those dispensations of Providence, by which the means of this success were established after Christ’s resurrection.
I. The abolishing the Jewish dispensation.
This indeed was gradually done, but it began from the time of Christ’s
resurrection, in which the abolition of it is founded. For the Jewish
dispensation was not fitted for the practice of the world in general,
or for a church of God dwelling in all parts of the world: nor would it
have been practicable by them. It would have been impossible for men
living in all parts of the world to go to Jerusalem three
times a year, as was prescribed in that constitution. When therefore
God had a design of enlarging his church, as he did after Christ’s
resurrection, it was necessary that this dispensation should be
abolished. If it had been continued, it would have been a great block
and hindrance to the enlargement of the church. Besides, their
ceremonial law, by reason of its burdensomeness, and great peculiarity
of some of its rites, was a wall of partition between the Jews and
Gentiles, and would have
kept the Gentiles from complying with the true religion. This wall
therefore was broken down to make way for the more extensive success of
the gospel; as
II. The next thing in order of time seems to be the appointment of the christian sabbath.
For though this was gradually established in the christian church, yet
those things by which the revelation of God’s mind and will was made,
began on the day of Christ’s resurrection, by his appearing then to his
III. The next thing was Christ’s appointment of the gospel-ministry, by commissioning and sending forth his apostles to teach and baptize all nations. Of these things we have an account in
1. The appointment of the office of the gospel-ministry.—For this commission which Christ gives to his apostles, in the most essential parts of it, belongs to all ministers; and the apostles, by virtue of it, were ministers or elders of the church.
2. Something peculiar in this commission, viz. to go forth from one nation to another,
preaching the gospel in all the world. The apostles had something above
what belonged to their ordinary character as ministers; they had an
extraordinary power of teaching and ruling, which extended to all the
churches; and not only all the churches which then were, but all that
should be to the end of the world by their ministry. And so the
apostles were, in subordination to Christ, made foundations of the
christian church. See
3. Here is an appointment of Christian baptism. This ordinance indeed had a beginning before; John the Baptist and Christ baptized. But now especially by this institution is it established as an ordinance to be upheld in the christian church to the end of the world.—The ordinance of the Lord’s supper had been established before, just before Christ’s crucifixion.
The next thing to be observed, is the enduing the apostles, and others,
with extraordinary and miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost; such as the
gift of tongues, the gift of
587healing, of prophecy, &c. The Spirit of
God was poured out in great abundance in this respect; so that not only
ministers, but a very great part of the Christians through the world
were endued with them, both old and young; not only officers, and more
honourable persons, but the
meaner son of people, servants, and handmaids, agreeable to Joel’s
wonderful a dispensation was this! Under the Old Testament but few had
such honours put upon them by God. Moses indeed wished that all the
Lord’s people were prophets,
This was a great means of the success of the gospel, and of establishing the christian church, not only in that age, but in all ages to the end of the world. For Christianity being established through so great a part of the known world by miracles, it was after that more easily continued by tradition; and by means of these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, the apostles and others were enabled to write the New Testament, to be an infallible and perpetual rule of faith and manners to the church. And these miracles recorded in those writings are a standing proof of the truth of Christianity to all ages.
The next thing is the revealing of those glorious doctrines fully and
plainly, which had under the Old Testament been obscurely revealed. The
doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction and righteousness, his ascension and
glory, and the way of salvation, were under the Old Testament in a
great measure hid under the vail of types and shadows, and more obscure
revelations, as Moses put a vail on his face to hide the shining of it;
but now the vail of the temple is rent from
the top to the bottom. Christ, the antetype of Moses, shines; his face
is without a vail;
the Sun of righteousness, after it is risen, begins to shine forth
clearly, and not by a dim reflection as before.—Christ, before his
death, revealed many things more clearly than ever they had been in the
Old Testament: but the great mysteries of Christ’s redemption,
reconciliation by his death, and justification by his righteousness,
were not so plainly revealed before Christ’s resurrection. Christ gave
this reason for it, that he would not put new wine into old
bottles; and it was gradually done even after his resurrection. In all
likelihood, Christ much more clearly instructed them personally after
his resurrection, and before his ascension; as we read that he
continued with them forty days, speaking of the things pertaining to
Thus we see how the light of the gospel, which began to dawn immediately after the fall, and gradually increased through all the ages of the Old Testament, is now come to the light of perfect day, as the brightness of the sun shining forth in his unvailed glory.
VI. The next thing that I would observe, is the appointment of the office of deacons in the christian church, which we have an account of in the 6th chapter of the Acts, to take care for the outward supply of the members of Christ’s church, and the exercise of that great christian virtue charity.
calling, qualifying, and sending the apostle Paul. This was begun in
his conversion as he was going to Damascus, and was one of the greatest
means of the success of Christ’s redemption that followed: for this
success was more by the labours, preaching, and writings of this
apostle, than all the other apostles put together. For, as he says,
The next thing I would observe, is the institution of ecclesiastical
councils, for deciding controversies, and ordering the affairs of the
church of Christ, of which we have an account in
The last thing I shall mention under this head, is the committing the
New Testament to writing. This was all written after the resurrection
of Christ by the apostles themselves, except the gospels of Mark and
Luke, and the book of the Acts. He that wrote the gospel of Mark, is
supposed to be the son of Mary, in whose house they were praying for
Peter, when he, brought out of prison by the angel, came and knocked at
the door; of which we read, “And when he had
considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John,
whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together, praying.” He
was the companion of the apostles Barnabas and Paul:
who wrote the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, was a great
companion of the apostle Paul. Beside the last-mentioned place, he
speaks of himself as accompanying Paul in his travels, and therefore
speaks in the first person plural; We went to such a place; We set
sail, &c. He was greatly beloved by the apostle Paul: he is that
beloved physician spoken of,
The books of the New Testament are either historical, doctrinal, or prophetical. The historical books are the writings of the four evangelists, giving us the history of Christ, his purchase of redemption, his resurrection and ascension; and the Acts of the Apostles, giving an account of the great things by which the christian church was first established and propagated. The doctrinal books are the epistles; most of which we have from the great apostle 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 which were to come to pass, 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 written before the destruction of Jerusalem, excepting those which were written by the apostle John, who lived the longest of all the apostles, and who wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem, as is supposed. To this beloved disciple it 588was that Christ revealed those wonderful things which were to come to pass in his church to the end of time; and he was the person who 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’s 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.
SECTION IV. How the Success was carried on.
How the success was carried on.
Christ’s resurrection till the fall of Antichrist, is the appointed day
of Zion’s troubles. During this space of time, some part or other of
the church is under persecution; and great part of the time, the whole
church, or at least the generality of God’s people, have been
persecuted. For the first three hundred years after Christ, the church
was for the most part 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
The suffering state of the church is in Scripture represented as a state of the church’s travail, (
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 troubles of the christian church were from heathen Rome: since that time, its troubles 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 trouble of the christian church will cease with the destruction of the church of Rome, that spiritual Babylon.
PART I. To the Destruction of Jerusalem.
THE SUCCESS OF REDEMPTION FROM THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST TO THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM.
I would now show, how the success of Christ’s purchase of redemption was carried on from Christ’s resurrection to the destruction of Jerusalem. In speaking of this I would, 1. take notice of the success itself; and, 2. the opposition made against it by its enemies; and, 3. the terrible judgments of God on those enemies.
I. I would observe 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 hasten to ruin, which might well be compared to Satan’s falling like lightning from heaven. Satan before had exalted his throne very high in this world, even to the very stars of heaven, reigning with great glory in his heathen Roman empire; but never before had he such a downfall as he had soon after Christ’s ascension. He had, we may suppose, been very lately triumphing in a supposed victory, having brought about the death of Christ, which he doubtless gloried in as the greatest feat that ever he did; and probably imagined he had totally defeated God’s design by him. But he was quickly made sensible, that he had only been ruining his own kingdom, when he saw it tumbling so fast so soon after, 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 set up in the world. There probably were more souls converted in the age of the apostles, than had been before from the beginning of the world till that time. Thus God so soon begins gloriously to accomplish his promise to his Son, wherein he had promised, 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 first began with them. He being about to reject the main body
of that people, 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 afterwards more
fully in Ahab’s time; but yet there was a remnant of them reserved.
Many left their possessions in these tribes, and settled in the tribes
of Judah and Benjamin. And afterwards 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 therefore the Holy Ghost compares this reservation
of a number
that were converted by the preaching of the apostles, to those former
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. (
Thus the christian church was first formed from the nation of Israel; and therefore, when the Gentiles were called, they were added to the christian church of Israel, as 589the proselytes of old were to the Mosaic church of Israel. They were only grafted on the stock of Abraham, and were not a distinct tree; for they were all still the seed of Abraham and Israel; as Ruth the Moabitess, and Uriah the Hittite, and other proselytes of old, were the same people, and ranked as the seed of Israel.
christian church began at Jerusalem, and from thence was propagated to
all nations: so that this church of Jerusalem was the mother of all
other churches in the world; agreeable to the prophecy,
After this, we read of many thousands of Jews in Jerusalem that believed,
In this pouring out of the Spirit, at the Pentecost, began that first great dispensation which is called Christ’s coming in his kingdom.
Christ’s coming thus in a spiritual manner for the glorious erection of
his kingdom in the world, is represented as his coming down from
heaven, whither he had ascended,
After the success of the gospel had been so gloriously begun among the
Jews, we Spirit of God was next wonderfully poured out on the Samaritans;
who were the posterity of those whom the king of Assyria removed from
different parts of his dominions, and settled in the land which had
been inhabited by the ten tribes, whom he carried captive. These had
received the five books of Moses, and practised most of the Mosaic
rites, and so were a sort of mongrel
Jews. We do not find them reckoned as Gentiles in the New
Testament: for the calling of the Gentiles is spoken of as a new thing
after this, beginning with the conversion of Cornelius. But yet it was
an instance of making those a people who were no people: for they had
corrupted the religion of Moses, and did not go up to Jerusalem to
worship. They had another temple of their own in mount Gerizim; which
is the mountain of which the woman of Samaria speaks, when she says, Our
fathers worshipped in this mountain.
Christ there does not approve of their separation from the Jews; but
says, that they worshipped they knew not what, and that salvation is of
the Jews. But now salvation is brought from the Jews to them by the
preaching of Philip, (excepting that before Christ had some success
among them,) with whose preaching there was a glorious pouring out of
the Spirit of God in the city of Samaria; where we are told, that “the
believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of Christ,
and were baptized, both men and women; and that there was great joy in
Christ had a glorious harvest in Samaria; according to what he said to
his disciples at Jacob’s well, three or four years before, on occasion
of the people of Samaria appearing at a distance in the fields coming
to the place where he was.
The next thing to be observed is the calling the Gentiles. This was a
great and glorious dispensation, much spoken of in the Old Testament,
and by the apostles, as a most glorious event. This was began in the
conversion of Cornelius and his family, greatly to the admiration of
Peter, who was used as the instrument of it, and of those who were with
this vast multitudes of Gentiles were converted in different parts of
the world, chiefly by the ministry of the apostle Paul. Multitudes
flocked into the church of Christ in a great number of cities where the
apostle came. So the number of Gentile members of the christian church
soon far exceeded that of its Jewish members; yea, in less than ten
years’ time after Paul was sent forth from Antioch to preach to the
Gentiles, it was said of him and his companions,
that they had turned the world upside down:
was a great and new thing, such as never had been before. All nations
but the Jews, and a few who had occasionally joined them, had been
rejected from about the time of Moses. The Gentile world had been
covered with the thick darkness of idolatry; but now at the joyful
sound of the gospel, they began in all parts to forsake their idols,
and to cast them to the moles and to the bats. They now learned to
worship the true God, and to trust in his Son Jesus Christ.
God owned them for his people; and those who had so long been afar off,
were made nigh by the blood of Christ. Men, from being heathenish and
brutish, became the children of God; were called out of Satan’s kingdom
of darkness, and brought into God’s marvellous light. In almost all
countries throughout the known world there were christian assemblies,
and joyful praises were sung to the true God, and Jesus Christ the
glorious Redeemer. Now that great building which God began soon after
of man, rises gloriously in a new manner; now Daniel’s prophecies
concerning the last kingdom, which should succeed the four heathenish
monarchies, begins to be fulfilled; now the stone cut out of the
mountain without hands, began to smite the image on its feet, and to
break it in pieces, and to make great advances towards filling the
earth; and now God gathers together his elect from the four winds of
heaven, by the preaching of the apostles and other ministers, (the
angels of the christian
church sent forth with the great sound of the gospel-trumpet,) before
the destruction of Jerusalem, agreeable to what Christ foretold,
II. I would proceed now, in the second place, to take notice of the opposition which was made to this success of Christ’s purchase by the enemies of it.—Satan, who lately was so ready to triumph and exult, as though he had gained the victory in putting Christ to death, now finding himself fallen into the pit which he had digged, and finding his kingdom falling so fast, and seeing Christ’s kingdom make such amazing progress, was filled with the greatest confusion and astonishment: and hell seemed to be effectually alarmed to make the most violent opposition against it. And, first, the devil stirred up the Jews, who had before crucified Christ, to persecute the church: for it is observable, that the persecution which the church suffered during this period, was mostly from the Jews. Thus we read in the Acts, when the Holy Ghost was poured out at Pentecost, how the Jews mocked, and said, These men are full of new wine; and how the scribes and Pharisees, and the captain of the temple, were alarmed, and bestirred themselves to oppose and persecute the apostles. They first apprehended and threatened them, 590and afterwards imprisoned and beat them; and breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, they stoned Stephen in a tumultuous rage; and were not content to persecute those that they could find in Judea, but sent abroad to Damascus and other places, to persecute all that they could find every where. Herod, who was chief among them, stretched forth his hands to vex the church, and killed James with the sword, and proceeded to take Peter also, and cast him into prison.
in other countries we find, that almost wherever the apostles came, the
Jews opposed the gospel in a most malignant manner, contradicting and
blaspheming. How many things did the blessed apostle Paul suffer at
their hands! How violent and blood-thirsty did they show themselves
towards him, when he came to bring alms to his nation! In this
persecution and cruelty was fulfilled that saying of Christ,
III. I proceed to take notice of the judgments which were executed on those enemies of Christ, the persecuting Jews.
The bulk of the people were given up to judicial blindness of mind and
hardness of heart. Christ denounced such a woe upon them in the days of
They were rejected from being any longer God’s visible people. They
were broken off from the stock of Abraham, and since that have no more
been reputed his seed, than the Ishmaelites or Edomites, who are as
much his natural seed as they. The greater part of the two tribes were
now cast off, as the ten tribes had been before, and another people
were taken in their room, agreeable to the predictions of their own
Thus far we have had the scripture history to guide us: henceforward we shall have the guidance only of scripture prophecy, and human histories.
3. The third and last judgment of God on those enemies of the success of the gospel which I shall mention, is the terrible destruction of their city and country by the Romans.—They had great warnings and many means used with them before this destruction. First, John the Baptist warned them, and told them, that the axe was laid at the root of the tree; and that every tree which should not bring forth good fruit, should be hewn down, and cast into the fire. Then Christ warned them very particularly, and told them of their approaching destruction, at the thoughts of which he wept over them. And then the apostles after Christ’s ascension abundantly warned them. But they proved obstinate, and went on in their opposition to Christ and his church, and in their bitter persecuting practices. Their so indignantly persecuting the apostle Paul, of which we have an account towards the end of the Acts of the Apostles, is supposed to have been not more than seven or eight years before their destruction.
this, God was pleased to give them one more very remarkable warning by
the apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, written, it is
supposed, about four years before their destruction; wherein the
plainest and clearest arguments are set before them from their own law,
and from their prophets, for whom they professed such a regard, to
prove that Christ Jesus must be the Son of God, that all their law
typified him, and that the Jewish dispensation must needs
have ceased. For though the epistle was more immediately directed to
the christian Hebrews, yet the matter of the epistle plainly shows that
the apostle intended it for the use and conviction of the unbelieving
Jews. And in this epistle he mentions particularly the approaching
the generality of them, refusing to receive conviction, God soon
destroyed with such terrible circumstances, as the destruction of no
country or city since the foundation of the world can parallel;
agreeable to what Christ foretold,
This destruction of Jerusalem was in all respects agreeable to what Christ had foretold of it,
The people had ceased for the most part to be an independent government after the Babylonish captivity; but the sceptre entirely departed from Judah on the death of Archelaus, when Judea was made a Roman province. After this, they were cast off from being the people of God; but now their very city and land are utterly destroyed, and they carried away from it; and so have continued in their dispersions through the world for now above sixteen hundred years.
Thus there was a final end put to the Old-Testament world: all was finished with a kind of day of judgment, in which the people of God were saved, and his enemies terribly destroyed.—Thus does he who was so lately mocked, despised, and spit upon by these Jews, and whose followers they so malignantly persecuted, appear gloriously exalted over his enemies.
PART II. To the Time of Constantine.
THE SUCCESS OF REDEMPTION FROM THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM, TO THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE.
Jerusalem was destroyed about the year of our Lord sixty-eight, and so before that generation passed away which was contemporary with Christ. The destruction of 591the heathen empire under Constantine, was about two hundred and sixty years after this. In showing how the success of the gospel was carried on through this time, I would, 1. Take notice of the opposition made against it by the Roman empire. 2. How the work of the gospel went on notwithstanding all that opposition. 3. The peculiar circumstances of tribulation and distress that the church was in just before their deliverance by Constantine; and 4. The great revolution in Constantine’s time.
I. I would briefly show what opposition was made against the gospel, and the kingdom of Christ, by the Roman empire. This opposition was mainly after the destruction of Jerusalem, though it began before; but that which was before the destruction of Jerusalem, was mainly by the Jews. When Jerusalem was destroyed, the Jews were much incapacitated for troubling the church; therefore the devil turns his hand elsewhere, and uses other instruments. The opposition which was made in the Roman empire against the kingdom of Christ was chiefly of two kinds.
They employed all their learning, philosophy, and wit, in opposing it.
Christ came into the world in an age wherein learning and philosophy
were at their height in the Roman empire. The gospel, which held forth
a crucified Saviour, was not at all agreeable to the notions of the
philosophers.—The christian scheme of trusting in such a crucified
Redeemer, appeared foolish and ridiculous to them. Greece was a country
the most famous for learning of any in the Roman
empire; but the apostle observes, that the doctrine of Christ crucified
appeared foolishness to the Greeks,
2. The authority of the Roman empire employed all their strength, time after time, to persecute, and if possible to root out, Christianity. This they did in ten general successive persecutions. We have heretofore observed that Christ came into the world when the strength of heathen dominion and authority was the greatest under the Roman monarchy. All the strength of this monarchy was employed for a long time to oppose and persecute the christian church, and if possible to destroy it, in ten successive attempts, which are called the ten heathen persecutions.
of these, which was the persecution under Nero, was a little before the
destruction of Jerusalem, in which the apostle Peter was crucified, and
the apostle Paul beheaded, soon after he wrote his second epistle to
Timothy. When he wrote that epistle, he was a prisoner at Rome under
Nero, and says,
In the second general persecution, (under Domitian,) that which was next after the destruction of Jerusalem, the apostle John was banished to the isle of Patmos, where he had those visions which he has recorded in the Revelation. Under that persecution it was reckoned, that about forty thousand suffered martyrdom; which yet was nothing to what were put to death under some succeeding persecutions. Ten thousand suffered that one kind of cruel death, crucifixion, in the third persecution under the emperor Adrian. Under the fourth persecution, which began about the year of Christ one hundred and sixty-two, many suffered martyrdom in England, the land of our forefathers, where Christianity had been planted, it is supposed, in the days of the apostles. And in the later persecutions, the Roman emperors being vexed at the frustration of their predecessors, who were not able to extirpate Christianity, or hinder its progress, were enraged to be the more violent in their attempts.
Thus a great part of the first three hundred years after Christ was spent in violent and cruel persecutions of the church by the Roman powers. Satan was very unwilling to quit his hold of so great and distinguished a part of the world, as the countries contained in the Roman empire, of which he had had the quiet possession for so many ages: and therefore, when he saw it going so fast out of his hands, he bestirred himself to his utmost. All hell was raised to oppose it with its utmost power.
Satan thus exerting himself by the power of the heathen Roman empire, is called the great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, fighting against the woman clothed with the sun. (
I would take notice what success the gospel had in the world before the
time of Constantine, notwithstanding all this opposition.—Though the
learning and power of the Roman empire were so great, and both were
employed to the utmost against Christianity; yet all was in vain. They
could neither root it out, nor stop its progress. In spite of all, the
kingdom of Christ wonderfully prevailed, and Satan’s heathen kingdom
mouldered and consumed away before it, agreeable
to the text, “The moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm
shall eat them like wool.
And it was very observable that, for the most part, the more they
persecuted the church, the more it increased; insomuch that it became a
common saying, The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the
church.—Herein the church of Christ proved to be like a palm-tree; of
which it is remarked, that the greater weight is hung to its branches,
the more it grows and flourishes. On this account probably the church
is compared to a palm-tree,
And it was remarked by both heathen and christian writers in those days, that the famous heathen oracles in their temples—where princes and others for many past ages had been wont to inquire and receive answers with an audible voice from their gods, which were indeed answers from the devil—were now struck dumb, and gave no more answers: and particularly the oracle at Delphos, the most famous in the whole world, which both Greeks and Romans used to consult, began to cease to give any answers, even from the birth of Christ. The false deity who was worshipped, and who used to give answers from his oracle in that temple, being once inquired of, why he did not now give answers as he was wont to do? made this reply, (as several heathen historians who lived about those times relate,) There is a Hebrew boy, who is king of the gods, who has commanded me to leave this house, and begone to hell, and therefore you are to expect no more answers. And many heathen writers who lived about that time, speak much of the oracles being silenced, at which they wondered, not knowing what the cause should be. Plutarch wrote a particular treatise about it, which is still extant. And Porphyry, who opposed the christian religion, has these words, “It is no wonder if the city for these many years has been overrun with sickness; Esculapius, and the rest of the gods, having withdrawn their converse with men: for since Jesus began to be worshipped, no man has received any public help or benefit by the gods.” Thus did the kingdom of Christ prevail against the kingdom of Satan.
III. I now proceed to take notice of the peculiar circumstances of tribulation and distress just before Constantine the Great came to the throne. This distress they suffered under the tenth heathen persecution, which, as it was the last, so it was by far the heaviest and most severe. The church before this, after the ceasing of the ninth persecution, had enjoyed a time of quietness for about forty years together; but abusing their liberty, they began to grow cold and lifeless in religion, and contentions prevailed among them; by which they offended God to suffer this dreadful trial to come upon them. And Satan having lost ground so much, notwithstanding all his attempts, now seemed to bestir himself with more than ordinary rage. Those who were then in authority set themselves with the utmost violence to root out Christianity, by burning all Bibles, and destroying all Christians; and therefore they did not stand to try or convict them in a formal process, but fell upon them wherever they could. Sometimes they set fire to houses where multitudes were assembled, burning them altogether; at other times they slaughtered such multitudes that their persecutors were quite spent with the labour of killing and tormenting them; and in some populous places, so many were slain together, that the blood ran like torrents. It is related, that seventeen thousand martyrs were slain in one month’s time; and that during the continuance of this persecution, in the province of Egypt alone, no less than one hundred and forty-four thousand Christians died by the violence of their persecutors, besides seven hundred thousand that died through the fatigues of banishment, or the public works to which they were condemned.
persecution lasted for ten years together, and as it exceeded all the
foregoing persecutions, in the number of martyrs, so it exceeded them
in the variety and multitude of inventions of torture and cruelty. Some
authors who lived at that time, say, they were innumerable, and exceed
all account and expression. This persecution in particular was very
severe in England; and is that which was foretold in
Thus it was the darkest time with the christian church, just before the break of day. They were brought to the greatest extremity before God appeared for their glorious deliverance, as the bondage of the Israelites in Egypt was the most severe and cruel just before their deliverance by the hand of Moses. Their enemies thought they had swallowed them up, and sealed their destruction, as Pharaoh and his host thought when they had hemmed in the children of Israel at the Red sea.
IV. I come now, in the fourth place, to the great revolution by Constantine, which was in many respects like Christ’s appearing in the clouds of heaven to save his people, and judge the world. The people of Rome being weary of the government of those tyrants to whom they had lately been subject, sent to Constantine, who was then in the city of York in England, to come and take the throne. He was encouraged, it is said, by a vision of a pillar of light in the heavens, in the form of a cross, in the sight of his whole army, with this inscription, NOT ENGLISH, In this overcome; and the night following, by Christ’s appearing to him in a dream with the same cross in his hand, who directed him to make a cross like that to be his royal standard, that his army might fight under that banner, and assured him that he should overcome. Accordingly he overcame his enemies, took possession of the imperial throne, embraced the christian religion, and was the first christian emperor that ever reigned. He came to the throne about three hundred and twenty years after Christ. There are several things which I would take notice of which attended, or immediately followed, Constantine’s coming to the throne.
1. The christian church was thereby wholly delivered from persecution. Now the day of her deliverance came after such a dark night of affliction: weeping had continued for a night, but now deliverance and joy came in the morning. Now God appeared to judge his people, and repented himself for his servants, when he saw their power was gone, and that there was none shut up or left. Christians had no persecutions now to fear. Their persecutors now were all put down, and their rulers were some of them Christians like themselves.
2. God now appeared to execute terrible judgments on their enemies. Remarkable are the accounts which history gives of the fearful ends to which the heathen emperors, princes, generals, captains, and other great men were brought, who had exerted themselves in persecuting the Christians; dying miserably, one after another, under exquisite torments of body, and horrors of conscience, with a most visible hand of God upon them. So that what now came to pass might very fitly be compared to their hiding themselves in the dens and rocks of the mountains.
3. Heathenism now was in a great measure abolished throughout the Roman empire. Images were now destroyed, and heathen temples pulled down. Images of gold and silver were melted down, and coined into money. Some of the chief of their idols, which were curiously wrought, were brought to Constantinople, and there drawn with ropes up and down the streets for the people to behold and laugh at. The heathen priests were dispersed and banished.
4. The christian church was brought into a state of great peace and prosperity. Now all heathen magistrates were put down, and only Christians were advanced to places of authority all over the empire. They had now christian presidents, christian governors, christian judges and officers, instead of their old heathenish ones. Constantine set himself to put honour upon christian bishops or ministers, and to build and adorn churches; and now large and beautiful christian churches were erected in all parts of the world, instead of the old heathen temples.
revolution was the greatest change in the face of things that ever came
to pass in the world since the flood.—Satan, the prince of darkness,
that king and god of the heathen world, was cast out. The roaring lion
was conquered by the Lamb of God, in the strongest dominion that he
ever had. This was a remarkable accomplishment of
is come the end of the old heathen world in its principal part, the
Roman empire. And this great revolution, with that terrible destruction
of the great men who had been persecutors, is compared, (
came to pass now is also represented by the devil’s being cast out of
heaven to the earth. In his great strength and glory, over that mighty
Roman empire, he had exalted his throne up to heaven. But now he fell
like lightning from heaven, and his kingdom was confined to the meaner
and more barbarous nations, or to the lower parts of the world. This is
the event foretold,
From what has been said of the success of the gospel from Christ’s ascension to the time of Constantine, we may deduce a strong argument for the truth of the christian religion, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is really from God. Particularly,
1. We may gather from what has been said, that it is the gospel, and that only, which has actually been the means of bringing the world to the knowledge of the true God. That those are no gods whom the heathen worshipped, and that there is but one only God, is what, now since the gospel has so taught us, we can see to be truth by our own reason. It is plainly agreeable to the light of nature; and it can be easily shown by reason to be demonstrably true. The very deists themselves acknowledge, that it can be demonstrated, that there is one God, and but one, who has made and governs the world. But now it is evident that it is the gospel, and that only, which has actually been the means of bringing men to the knowledge of this truth. It was not the instructions of philosophers; they tried in vain: The world by wisdom knew not God. Till the gospel and the Holy Scriptures came abroad, all the world lay in ignorance of the true God, and in the greatest darkness with respect to religion, embracing the absurdest opinions and practices, which all civilized nations now acknowledge to be childish fooleries. The light of nature, their own reason, and all the wisdom of learned men, signified nothing till the Scriptures came. But when these came abroad, they were successful to bring the world to an acknowledgment of the one only true God, and to worship and serve him.
And hence it is, that all that part of the world which now acknowledges one only true God—Christians, Jews, Mahometans, and even deists—originally came to own him. It is owing to this that they are not in general at this day left in heathenish darkness. They have it all, either immediately from the Scriptures, or by tradition from their fathers, who had it first from the Scriptures. And doubtless those who now despise the Scriptures, and boast of the strength of their own reason, as being sufficient to lead into the knowledge of the one true God, if the gospel had never come abroad in the world to enlighten their forefathers, would have been as sottish and brutish idolaters as the world in general was before the gospel came abroad. The Mahometans, who own but one true God, at first borrowed the notion from the Scriptures: for the first Mahometans had been educated in the christian religion, and apostatized from it. And this is evident, that the Scriptures were designed of God to be the proper means to bring the world to the knowledge of himself, rather than human reason, or any thing else. For it is unreasonable to suppose, that the gospel, and that only which God never designed as the proper mean for obtaining this effect, should actually obtain it; and that after human reason, which he designed as the proper mean, had been tried for a great many ages without any effect. If the Scriptures be not the word of God, then they are nothing but darkness and delusion, yea, the greatest delusion that ever was. Now, is it reasonable to suppose, that God in his providence would make use of falsehood and delusion, to bring the world to the knowledge of himself, and that no part of it should be brought to the knowledge of him any other way?
2. The gospel prevailing as it did against such powerful opposition, plainly shows the hand of God. The Roman government, that so violently set itself to hinder the success of the gospel, and to subdue the church of Christ, was the most powerful that ever was in the world; and not only so, but they seemed to have the church in their hands. The Christians who were under their command, never took up arms to defend themselves; they armed themselves with nothing but patience, and such like spiritual weapons: and yet this mighty power could not conquer, but, on the contrary, Christianity conquered them. The Roman empire had subdued many mighty and potent kingdoms; they subdued the Grecian monarchy, though it made the utmost resistance: and yet they could not conquer the church which was in their hands; but, on the contrary, were subdued and finally triumphed over by the church.
3. No other sufficient cause can possibly be assigned for this propagation of the gospel, but only God’s own power.—There was certainly some reason. Here was a great and wonderful effect; and this effect was not without some cause.—Now, what other cause can be devised but only the divine power? It was not the outward strength of the instruments which were employed in it. At first, the gospel was preached only by a few fishermen, who were without power and worldly interest to support them. It was not their craft and policy that produced this wonderful effect; for they were poor illiterate men. It was not the agreeableness of the story they had to tell to the notions and principles of mankind. This was no pleasant fable: a crucified God and Saviour was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness. It was not the agreeableness of their doctrines to the dispositions of men: for nothing is more contrary to the corruptions of men than the pure doctrines of the gospel. This effect therefore can have proceeded from no other cause than the power and agency of God: and if the 594power of God was thus exercised to cause the gospel to prevail, then the gospel is his word; for surely God does not use his almighty power to promote a mere imposture and delusion.
4. This success is agreeable to what Christ and his apostles foretold.—
So the apostle Paul, in
PART III. To the Rise of Antichrist.
THE SUCCESS OF REDEMPTION FROM THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE TO THE RISE OF ANTICHRIST.
I am now to show how the success of Christ’s redemption is carried on from the overthrow of the heathen Roman empire in the time of Constantine the Great, till the rise of Antichrist. And in order to a more clear view of the great works of God in accomplishing the success of Christ’s redemption, and our seeing the glory of them, it will be necessary, as in the foregoing periods, to consider not only the success itself, but the opposition made to it.
I. The opposition. Satan, the great red dragon, after so sore a conflict with Michael and his angels for the greater part of three hundred years, was at last entirely routed and vanquished; so that he was cast down, as it were, from heaven to the earth. Yet he does not give over his opposition to the woman, the church of Christ, concerning which all this conflict had been; but is still in a rage, renews his attempts, and has recourse to new devices against the church. The serpent, after he is cast out of heaven to the earth, casts out of his mouth water as a flood, to cause the woman to be carried away of the flood. The opposition that he made to the church of Christ before the rise of Antichrist, was principally of two sorts. It was either by corrupting the church of Christ with heresies, or by new endeavours to restore paganism.
1. After the destruction of the heathen Roman empire, Satan infested the church with heresies. Though there had been so glorious a work of God in delivering the church from her heathen persecutors, and overthrowing the heathen empire; yet the days of the church’s travail not being ended, and the set time of her prosperity not being yet come, (as being what was to succeed the fall of Antichrist,) therefore the peace and prosperity which the church enjoyed in Constantine’s time, was but very short. It was a respite, which gave the church a time of peace and silence, as it were, for half an hour, wherein the four angels held the four winds from blowing till the servants of God should be sealed in their foreheads. But the church soon began to be greatly infested with heresies; the two principal, and those which did most infest the church, were the Arian and Pelagian.
The Arians began soon after Constantine came to the throne. They denied the doctrine of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and the Holy Ghost, and maintained, that they were but mere creatures. This heresy increased more and more in the church, and prevailed like a flood which threatened to overthrow all, and entirely to carry away the church, insomuch that before the close of the fourth century, the greater part of the christian church were become Arians. Some emperors, the successors of Constantine, were Arians; so that being the prevailing party, and having the civil authority on their side, they raised a great persecution against the true church of Christ; so that this heresy might well be compared to a flood out of the mouth of the serpent, which threatened to overthrow all, and quite carry away the woman.
The Pelagian heresy arose in the beginning of the next century. It began by one Pelagius, who was born in Britain: his British name was Morgan. He denied original sin and the influence of the Spirit of God in conversion, and held the power of free will, and many other things of like tendency; and this heresy did for a while greatly infest the church. Pelagius’s principal antagonist, who wrote in defence of the orthodox faith, was St. Augustin.
2. The other kind of opposition which Satan made against the church, was in his endeavours to restore paganism. His first attempt was by Julian the apostate. Julian was nephew to Constantine the Great. When Constantine died, he left his empire to three sons; and after their death, Julian the apostate reigned in their stead. He had been a professed Christian; but he fell from Christianity, and turned pagan; and therefore is called the apostate. When he came to the throne, he used his utmost endeavours to overthrow the christian church, and set up paganism again in the empire. He put down the christian magistrates, and set up heathens in their room. He rebuilt the heathen temples, set up the heathen worship, and became a most notorious persecutor of the Christians. He used to call Christ, by way of reproach, the Galilean. He was killed with a lance in his wars with the Persians. When he saw that he was mortally wounded, he took a handful of his blood, and threw it up towards heaven, crying out, “Thou hast overcome, O Galilean.” He is commonly thought by divines to have committed the unpardonable sin.
Another way that Satan attempted to restore paganism in the Roman empire, was by the invasions and conquest of heathen nations.
For in this space of time, the Goths and Vandals, and other barbarous
nations from the north, invaded the empire, and obtained great
conquests. They even overran the empire, and in the fifth century took
the city of Rome, and finally conquered and took possession of the
western half of the empire, and divided it amongst them. It was
divided into ten kingdoms, with which began the ten horns of the beast;
for we are told, that the ten horns are ten kings, who should rise in
the latter part of the Roman empire: these are also represented by the
ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image. The invasion and conquests of these
heathen nations are supposed to be foretold in
II. To show what success there was of the gospel in this space, notwithstanding this opposition.
1. I would observe, that the opposition of Satan in those things was baffled. Though the dragon cast out of his mouth such a flood after the woman to carry her away, yet he could not obtain his design; but the earth helped the woman, and opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. These heresies, which for a while so much prevailed, after a while dwindled away, and orthodoxy was again restored.
2. The gospel, during this space of time, was further
propagated amongst many barbarous nations in the confines of the Roman
empire. In the time of Constantine there was a considerable propagation
of the gospel in the East Indies, chiefly by the ministry of one
Frumentius. Great numbers of the Iberians were converted to
Christianity by a christian woman of eminent piety, whom they had taken
captive. And some account is given of several other barbarous
nations who were not within the Roman empire, that great numbers of
them were brought to receive the gospel by the teaching and example of
captives whom they had taken in war. About the year of Christ three
hundred and seventy-two, the gospel was propagated among the barbarous
inhabitants of Arabia; and among some of the northern nations;
particularly, a prince of the Goths about this time became Christian,
and a great number of his people with him. Towards the latter end of
this century, the
gospel was also further propagated among the Persians; and also the
Scythians, a barbarous people, whom the apostle mentions,
And after this, about the year four hundred and thirty, there was a remarkable conversion of the Burgundians to the christian faith. Now the gospel began to be propagated in Ireland; and the Irish, who till now had been heathen, began to receive the christian faith. About the same time it was further propagated among some barbarous people in Scotland, and in some other places. In the next century, Zathus, a heathen king, who ruled over the Colchians, was brought to renounce his heathenism, and to embrace the christian religion. Several other barbarous nations are recorded to have renounced heathenism and embraced Christianity about this time, that I cannot stand to mention.—Thus I have briefly considered the principal events of Providence which concern the success of the gospel of Christ from Constantine to the rise of Antichrist.
PART IV. To the Reformation.
THE SUCCESS OF REDEMPTION FROM THE RISE OF ANTICHRIST TO THE REFORMATION.
I come now to the darkest and most dismal day that ever the christian church saw, and probably the darkest that ever it will see; from the rise of Antichrist till the Reformation by Luther and others. The true church in this space was for many hundred years in a state of great obscurity; like the woman in the wilderness, she was almost hid from sight and observation. In speaking of the events of this space of time, I would, 1. Take notice of the great machinations and works of Satan against the kingdom of Christ; 2. How the church of Christ was upheld during this time.
I. I would take notice of the great machinations and works of Satan against the kingdom of Christ during this time. Satan had done great things against the christian church before, but had been baffled once and again. Michael and his angels had obtained a glorious victory. How terrible was his opposition during the continuance of the heathen empire; and how glorious was Christ’s victory and triumph over him in the time of Constantine! It pleased God now to prepare the way for a yet more glorious victory over him; he is suffered to renew his strength, and to do the utmost that his power and subtlety can effect. He has a long time to lay his schemes, to establish his interest, and make his matters strong. God suffers him to carry his designs a great length indeed, almost to the swallowing up of his church; and to exercise a high, proud, and almost uncontrolled dominion in the world, a long time before Christ finally conquers, and utterly ruins his visible kingdom. This he will do in the time of the destruction of Antichrist: thus gloriously triumphing over Satan, after he has done to the utmost of his power and subtlety; after he has lifted himself highest of all, and dealt most proudly.
The two great works of the devil, in this space of time, against the kingdom of Christ, are his creating his Antichristian and Mahometan kingdoms; which both together comprehend the ancient Roman empire; the kingdom of Antichrist the Western, and the Mahometan kingdom the Eastern, empire. As the Scriptures in the book of Revelation represent it, it is in the destruction of these that the glorious victory of Christ, at the introduction of the glorious times of the church, will mainly consist. And here let us briefly observe how Satan erects and maintains these two great kingdoms of his in opposition to the kingdom of Christ.
1. With respect to the kingdom of Antichrist.
This seems to be the masterpiece of all the contrivances of the devil
against the kingdom of Christ, and is evidently so spoken of in
Scripture. Antichrist is that man of sin, (
This is a
contrivance to turn the ministry of the christian church into a
ministry of the devil, and the angels of the churches into fallen
angels. In the tyranny, superstition, idolatry, and persecution, which
he sets up, he contrives to make an image of ancient paganism, and more
than to restore what was lost by the overthrow of paganism in the time
of Constantine. By these means, the head of the beast, which was
wounded unto death in Constantine, has his deadly
wound healed in Antichrist,
I am far from pretending to determine the time when the reign of Antichrist began, which is a point that has been so much controverted among divines and expositors. It is certain that the twelve hundred and sixty days, or years, which are so often in Scripture mentioned as the time of the continuance of Antichrist’s reign, did not commence before the year of Christ four hundred and seventy-nine; because if they did, they would have ended, and Antichrist would have fallen before now. The rise of Antichrist was gradual. The christian church corrupted itself in many things presently after Constantine’s time; growing more and more superstitious in its worship, and by degrees bringing in many ceremonies into the worship of God, till at length they brought in the worship of saints, and set up images in their churches. The clergy in general, and especially the bishop of Rome, assumed more and more authority to himself. In the primitive times, he was only a minister of a congregation; then a standing moderator of a presbytery; then a diocesan bishop; then a metropolitan, which is equivalent to an archbishop; then a patriarch. Afterwards he claimed the power of universal bishop over the whole christian church; wherein he was opposed for a while, but afterwards was confirmed in it by the civil power of the emperor in the year six hundred and six. After that he claimed the power of a temporal prince, and so was wont to carry two swords, to signify that both the temporal and spiritual sword was his. He claimed more and more authority, till at length, as Christ’s vice-regent on earth, he claimed the very same power that Christ would have done, if he was present on earth reigning on his throne; or the same power that belongs to God, and was used to be called God on earth; to be submitted to by all the princes of Christendom. He claimed power to crown princes, and to degrade them at his pleasure; and this power was owned: yea, kings and emperors used to kiss his feet. The emperors received their crowns at his hands; and princes were wont to dread the displeasure of the pope, as they would dread a thunderbolt from heaven. If the pope was pleased to excommunicate a prince, all his subjects were at once freed from their allegiance to 596him; and obliged not to own him any more, on pain of excommunication; and not only so, but any man might kill him wherever he found him. Further, the pope was believed to have power to damn men at pleasure; for whoever died under his excommunication, was looked upon as certainly damned. Several emperors were actually deposed, and ejected, and died miserably by his means; and if the people of any state or kingdom did not please him, he had power to lay that state or kingdom under an interdict, which was a sentence pronounced by the pope against that state or kingdom, whereby all sacred administrations among them could have no validity. There could be no valid baptisms, or sacraments, or prayers, or preaching, or pardons, till that interdict was taken off; so that that people remained, in their apprehension, in a miserable, damnable state, and therefore dreaded it as they would a storm of fire and brimstone from heaven. And in order to execute his wrath on a prince or people with whom he was displeased, other princes must also be put to a great deal of trouble and expense.
as the pope and his clergy robbed the people of their ecclesiastical
and civil liberties and privileges, so they also robbed them of their
estates, drained all Christendom of their money. They engrossed most of
their riches into their own coffers, by vast revenues, besides pay for
pardons and indulgences, baptisms and extreme unctions, deliverance out
of purgatory, and a hundred other things.—See how well this agrees with
During this time also superstition and ignorance more and more prevailed. The Holy Scriptures by degrees were taken out of the hands of the laity, the better to promote the unscriptural and wicked designs of the pope and the clergy; and instead of promoting knowledge among the people, they industriously promoted ignorance. It was a received maxim among them, That ignorance is the mother of devotion: and so great was the darkness of those times, that learning was almost extinct in the world. The very priests themselves, most of them, were barbarously ignorant as to any commendable learning, or any other knowledge, than their hellish craft in oppressing and tyrannizing over the souls of the people.—The superstition and wickedness of the church of Rome, kept growing worse and worse till the very time of the Reformation, and the whole christian world were led away into this great defection, excepting the remains of the christian church in the Eastern empire that had not been utterly overthrown by the Turks. The Greek church, and some others, were also sunk into great darkness and gross superstition, excepting also those few that were the people of God, who are represented by the woman in the wilderness, and God’s two witnesses, of which more hereafter.—This is one of those two great kingdoms which the devil in this period erected in opposition to the kingdom of Christ, and was the greatest and chief.
2. The Mahometan kingdom is another of mighty power and vast extent, set up by Satan against the kingdom of Christ. He set this up in the Eastern empire, as he did that of Antichrist in the Western.
was born in the year of Christ five hundred and seventy, in Arabia.
When he was about forty years of age, he began to boast that he was the
great prophet of God; and proceeded to teach his new-invented religion,
of which he was to be worshipped as the head next under God. He
published his Alcoran, which he pretended he received from the angel
Gabriel; and being a subtle crafty man, possessed of considerable
wealth, and living among a people who were very
ignorant, and greatly divided in their opinions on religious matters,
he by subtlety and fair promises of a sensual paradise, gained a number
to be his followers. He set up for their prince, and propagated his
religion by the sword, and made it meritorious of paradise to fight for
him. By such means his party grew, and went on fighting till they
conquered and brought over the neighbouring countries; and so his party
gradually increased till they overran a great part of the world. First,
Saracens were some of his followers, who were a people of Arabia, where
Mahomet lived, and who about the year seven hundred, dreadfully wasted
the Roman empire.—They overran a great many countries belonging to the
empire, and continued their conquests for a long time. These are
supposed to be meant by the locusts mentioned in
then the Turks, who were originally different from the Saracens, became
followers of Mahomet, and conquered all the Eastern empire. They began
their empire about the year of Christ twelve hundred and ninety-six;
began to invade Europe in the year thirteen hundred; took
Constantinople, and so became masters of all the Eastern empire, in the
year fourteen hundred and fifty-three. And thus all the cities and
countries where stood those famous churches of which we read
in the New Testament, as Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, &c.
now became subject to the Turks. These are supposed to be prophesied of
by the horsemen in
Thus I have shown what great works of Satan were wrought during this space of time in opposition to the kingdom of Christ.
II. I come now to show how the church of Christ was upheld through this dark time.
1. It is to be observed, that towards the former part of this space of time, some of the nations of Christendom held out a long time before they complied with the corruptions and usurpations of the church of Rome. Though all the world wondered after the beast, yet all nations did not fall in at once. Many of the principal corruptions of the church of Rome were brought in with a great deal of struggle and opposition; and particularly, when the pope gave out, that he was universal bishop, many churches greatly opposed him in it; and it was a long time before they would yield to his exorbitant claims. And so, when the worship of images was first brought into the churches, there were many who greatly opposed it, and long held out against it. And so with respect to other corruptions of the church of Rome. Those who dwelt nearer to the city of Rome complied sooner; but some that were more remote, were a long time before they could be induced to put their necks under the yoke: and particularly a great part of the churches in England, Scotland, and France, retained the ancient purity of doctrine and worship much longer than many others who were nearer the chief seat of Antichrist.
2. In every age of this dark time, there appeared particular persons in all parts of christendom, who bore a testimony against the corruptions and tyranny of the church of Rome—There is no one age of Antichrist, even in the darkest times, but ecclesiastical historians mention many by name who manifested an abhorrence of the pope, and his idolatrous worship, and pleaded for the ancient purity of doctrine and worship. God was pleased to maintain an uninterrupted succession of many witnesses through the whole time, in Germany, France, Britain, and other countries; private persons and ministers, some magistrates and persons of great distinction.—And there were numbers in every age who were persecuted and put to death for this testimony.
3. Besides these particular persons dispersed, there was a certain people called the Waldenses,
who lived separate from all the rest of the world, and constantly bore
a testimony against the church of Rome through all this dark time. The
place where they dwelt was the Vaudois, or the five valleys of
Piedmont, a very mountainous country, between Italy and France; it was
compassed about with those exceeding high mountains, the Alps,
which were almost
impassable, and therefore the valleys were almost inaccessible. There
this people lived for many ages, in a state of a separation from all
the world, having very little to do with any other people. And there
they served God in the ancient purity of his worship, and never
submitted to the church of Rome. This probably was the place especially
Some of the popish
writers themselves own, that this people never submitted to the church
of Rome. One of the popish writers, speaking of the Waldenses, says,
The heresy of the Waldenses is the oldest heresy in the world. It is
supposed that they first betook themselves to this place among the
mountains, to hide themselves from the severity of the heathen
persecutions which existed before Constantine the Great. And thus the
woman fled into the wilderness from the face
of the serpent,
especially were those virgins who were not defiled, when other churches
prostituted themselves; but they kept themselves pure for Christ alone.
They followed the Lamb, their spiritual husband, whithersoever he went:
they followed him into this hideous wilderness,
in so secret a place, it was a long time before they were noticed. But
at last, falling under observation, the Romanists went out in mighty
armies against them, fell upon them with insatiable cruelty,
barbarously massacring and putting to death men, women, and children,
with all imaginable tortures. Their enemies continued persecuting them
with but little intermission for several hundred years; by which means
many were driven out of the valleys of Piedmont.
These fled into all parts of Europe, carrying with them their doctrine,
to which many were brought over. Their persecutors could not by all
their cruelties extirpate the church of God; so fulfilling his word,
4. Towards the latter part of this dark time, several noted divines openly appeared to defend the truth, and bear testimony against the corruptions of the church of Rome.—The first and principal of these was a certain English divine, John Wickliff, who appeared about one hundred and forty years before the Reformation; he strenuously opposed the popish religion, taught the same doctrine that the Reformers afterwards did, and had many followers in England. He was hotly persecuted in his lifetime, yet died in peace; but after he was buried, his bones were dug up by his persecutors, and burnt. His followers remained in considerable numbers in England till the Reformation; they were cruelly persecuted, and multitudes were put to death for their religion.
Wickliff had many disciples, not only in England, but in other parts of Europe, whither his books were carried; and particularly in Bohemia, among whom were two eminent divines, John Huss, and Jerom, a divine of Prague, the chief city of Bohemia. These strenuously opposed the church of Rome, and had many who adhered to them. They were both burnt by the papists for their doctrine; and their followers in Bohemia were cruelly persecuted, but never extirpated till the Reformation.
PART V. To the present Time.
THE SUCCESS OF REDEMPTION FROM THE REFORMATION TO THE PRESENT TIME.
Thus having gone through the dark time of the church, I come now to consider that part which begins with the Reformation, and reaches to the present time. And here I would, 1. Speak of the Reformation itself; 2. The opposition which the devil has made to the Reformed church; 3. What success there has lately been of the gospel in one place and another; 4. What the state of things is now in the world with regard to the church of Christ, and the success of his purchase.
I. The first thing to be taken notice of is the Reformation itself. This was begun in Germany, about the year fifteen hundred and fifteen, by the preaching of Martin Luther, who being stirred in his spirit to see the horrid practices of the popish clergy—and having set himself diligently to inquire after truth by the study of the Holy Scriptures, and the writings of the ancient fathers of the church—very openly and boldly decried the corruptions and usurpations of the Romish church in his preaching and writings. He had soon a great number who fell in with him; among whom was the Elector of Saxony, the sovereign prince of the country to which he belonged. This greatly alarmed the church of Rome; it rallied all its force to oppose him and his doctrine, and fierce wars and persecutions were raised against it. But yet it went on by the labours of Luther and Melancthon in Germany, Zuinglius in Switzerland, and other eminent divines, who were contemporary with Luther; particularly Calvin, who appeared after the beginning of the Reformation, but was one of the most eminent reformers.
Many of the princes of Germany soon fell in with the Reformed religion, and many other states and kingdoms in Europe, as England, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, great part of France, Poland, Lithuania, Switzerland, and the Low Countries. So that it is thought, that heretofore about half Christendom were of the protestant religion; though since, the papists have gained ground: so that the protestants now have not so great a proportion.
began gloriously to revive his church again, and advance the kingdom of
his Son; after such a dismal night of darkness from the rise of
Antichrist to that time. There had been many endeavours used by the
witnesses for the truth for a reformation before. But now, when God’s
appointed time was come, his work went on with a swift and wonderful
progress; and Antichrist, who had been rising higher and higher from
his beginning till that time, was swiftly and
suddenly brought down; he fell half-way towards utter ruin, and never
has been able to rise again to his former height. A certain late
expositor, (Mr. Lowman,) who explains the five first vials in
now, in the Reformation, the vials of God’s wrath were poured out on
the throne of the beast, till it was terribly shaken and diminished.
The pope’s authority and dominion was so greatly diminished, both as to
extent and degree, that he lost about half his dominions; besides that
authority, even in popish dominions, which he had before. He is not
regarded, and his power is dreaded in no measure as it was wont to be.
The powers of Europe have learned not to put
their necks under the pope’s feet. He is as a lion that has lost his
teeth, in comparison of what he was once. And when the pope and his
clergy, enraged to see their authority so diminished at the
Reformation, laid their heads together, and joined their forces to
destroy the Reformation; their policy, which was wont to serve them so
well, failed. They found their kingdom full of
598darkness, so that they could do nothing,
any more than the Egyptians, who rose not from their seats for
three days. The Reformed church was defended as Lot and the angels were
in Sodom, by smiting the Sodomites with darkness or blindness, so that
they could not find the door. God then fulfilled that in
II. I proceed to show what opposition has been made by Satan and his adherents, to this success of Christ’s purchase by the Reformation; observing as we go along, how far they have been baffled, and how far they have been successful.
The opposition which Satan has made against the Reformed religion has been principally of the following kinds, viz. that which was made, 1. by a general council of the church of Rome; 2. by secret plots and devices; 3. by open wars and invasions; 4. by cruel oppression and persecution; and, 5. by bringing in corrupt opinions.
1. The first opposition that I shall notice is that which was made by the clergy of the church of Rome in a general council. This was the famous council of Trent, which the pope called a little while after the Reformation. In that council, there met together six cardinals, thirty-two archbishops, two hundred and twenty-eight bishops, besides innumerable others of the Romish clergy. This council, in all their sittings, including the times of intermission, was held for twenty-five years together. Their main business all this while was to concert measures for establishing the church of Rome against the reformers, and for destroying the Reformation. But it proved that they were not able to perform their enterprise. The Reformed church, notwithstanding their great council, remained, and still remains. So that the council of the froward is carried headlong: their kingdom is full of darkness, and they weary themselves to find the door.
Thus the church of Rome, instead of repenting of their deeds, when such clear light was held forth to them by Luther and other servants of God, persisted, by general agreement in council, in their vile corruptions and wickedness, and obstinate opposition to the kingdom of Christ. The doctrines and practices of the church of Rome, which were chiefly condemned by the Reformed, were confirmed by the decrees of their council; and the corruptions, in many respects, were carried higher than ever before. They uttered blasphemous reproaches and curses against the Reformed religion, and all the Reformed church was excommunicated and anathematized by them. According to the prophecy, they blasphemed God. Thus God hardened their hearts, [i. e. left them to do so,] intending to destroy them.
2. The papists have often endeavoured to overthrow the Reformation by secret plots and conspiracies. There were many plots against the life of Luther. The papists were contriving to despatch him out of their way; and he, being a very bold man, often very much exposed himself in the cause of Christ: but yet they were wonderfully prevented from hurting him, and he at last died in his bed in peace. There have been innumerable schemes secretly laid for the overthrow of the protestant religion; one of the most considerable, and which seemed to be the most likely to have taken effect, was that in the time of King James II. of England. There was at that time a strong conspiracy between the king of England and Lewis XIV. of France, who were both papists, to extirpate the Northern heresy, as they called the protestant religion, not only out of England, but out of all Europe; and they had laid their schemes so, that they seemed to be almost sure of their purpose. They looked upon it, that if the Reformed religion were suppressed in the British realms, and in the Netherlands, which were the strongest part, and chief defence of the protestant interest, they should have easy work with the rest. And just as their matters seemed to be come to a head, and their enterprise ripe for execution, God in his providence, suddenly dashed all their schemes in pieces by the Revolution, at the coming in of King William and Queen Mary; by which all their designs were at an end. Now the protestant interest was more strongly established, by the crown of England being transferred to the protestant house of Hanover, and a papist being, by the constitution of the nation, for ever rendered incapable of wearing the crown of England. Thus they groped in darkness at noon-day as in the night, and their hands could not perform their enterprise, and their kingdom was full of darkness, and they gnawed their tongues for pain.
After this, there was a deep design laid to bring the same thing to pass in the latter end of Queen Anne’s reign, by the bringing in of the popish Pretender; which was no less suddenly and totally baffled by Divine Providence; as all the plots against the Reformation by bringing in the Pretender have been.
3. The Reformation has often been opposed by open wars and invasions. The emperor of Germany declared war with the duke of Saxony, and the principal men who favoured and received Luther’s doctrine. But they could not obtain their end; they could not suppress the Reformation. For the same end, some time after, the king of Spain maintained a long war with Holland and the Low Countries. But those cruel wars issued greatly to the disadvantage of the Romish church, as they occasioned the setting up of one of the most powerful protestant states in Europe. The design of the Spanish invasion of England in Queen Elizabeth’s time, was to suppress and root out the Reformed religion; and therefore they brought in their fleet all manner of instruments of cruelty wherewith to torture the protestants who would not renounce the protestant religion. But their design was totally baffled, and their mighty fleet in a great measure ruined.
4. Satan has opposed the Reformation with cruel persecutions.
The persecutions with which the protestants have been harassed by the
church of Rome, have in many respects been far beyond any of the
heathen persecutions. So that Antichrist has proved the greatest and
most cruel enemy to the church of Christ that ever was in the world, in
this, as well as in all other respects; agreeable to the description
given of the church of Rome,
The heathen persecutions had been very dreadful: but now persecution by the church of Rome was improved, and studied, and cultivated, as an art or science. Such ways of afflicting and tormenting were found out, as are beyond the invention of ordinary men, or men unstudied in those things: and beyond the invention of all former ages. And that persecution might be managed the more effectually, there were certain societies of men established in various parts of the popish dominions, whose business it should be to study, and improve, and practise persecution in its highest perfection, viz. the courts of inquisition. The particular histories of the Romish persecution, and their courts of inquisition, will give that idea which a few words cannot express.
When the Reformation began, the beast with seven heads and ten horns began to rage in a dreadful manner. The church of Rome renewed its persecution of the poor Waldenses, and great multitudes of them were cruelly tortured and put to death. Soon after the Reformation, there were terrible persecutions in various parts of Germany; and especially in Bohemia, which lasted for thirty years together; in which so much blood was shed for the sake of religion, that a certain writer compares it to the plenty of waters of the great rivers of Germany. The countries of Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary, were in like manner deluged with protestant blood.
By means of these and other cruel persecutions, the protestant religion was in a great measure suppressed in
Bohemia, the Palatinate, and Hungary, which before were protestant
countries. Thus was fulfilled what was foretold of the little horn,
Holland and the other Low Countries were for many years a scene of nothing but the most affecting and amazing cruelties, being deluged with the blood of protestants, under the merciless hands of the Spaniards, to whom they were then in subjection. But in this persecution, the devil in a great measure failed of his purpose; as it issued in a great part of the Netherlands casting off the Spanish yoke, and setting up a wealthy and powerful protestant state, to the great defence of the protestant cause ever since.
France is also another country, which since the Reformation, in some respects, perhaps more than any other, has been a scene of dreadful cruelties suffered by the protestants. After many cruelties had been exercised towards the protestants in that kingdom, there was begun a persecution of them in the year fifteen hundred and seventy-one, in the reign of Charles IX. king of France. It began with a cruel massacre, wherein seventy thousand protestants were slain in a few days, as the king boasted: and in all this persecution, he slew, as is supposed, three hundred thousand martyrs. And it is reckoned, that about this time, within thirty years, there were martyred in this kingdom, for the protestant religion, thirty-nine princes, one hundred and forty-eight counts, two hundred and thirty-four barons, one hundred and forty-seven thousand five hundred and eighteen gentlemen, and seven hundred and sixty thousand common people.
But all these persecutions were, for exquisite cruelty, far exceeded by those which followed in the reign of Lewis XIV. which indeed are supposed to exceed all others; and being long continued, by reason of the long reign of that king, they almost wholly extirpated the protestant religion out of that kingdom, where had flourished a multitude of famous protestant churches all over the kingdom. Thus it was given to the beast to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.
There was also a terrible persecution in England in Queen Mary’s time, wherein great numbers in all parts of the kingdom were burnt alive. And after this, though the protestant religion has been for the most part established by law in England, yet there have been very severe persecutions by the high-churchmen, who symbolize in many things with the papists. Such was that which occasioned our forefathers to flee from their native country, and to come and settle in this land, which was then a hideous howling wilderness. And these persecutions were continued with little intermission till King William came to the throne.
Scotland has also been the scene, for many years together, of cruelties and blood by the hands of high-churchmen, such as came very little short of the popish persecution in Queen Mary’s days, and in many things much exceeded it, which continued till they were delivered by King William.
Ireland also has been as it were overwhelmed with protestant blood. In the days of King Charles I. of England, above two hundred thousand protestants were cruelly murdered in that kingdom in a few days; the papists, by a secret agreement, rising at an appointed time, intending to kill every protestant in the kingdom at once.
these, there have been very cruel persecutions in Italy, and Spain, and
other places, which I shall not stand to relate.—Thus did the devil,
and his great minister Antichrist, rage with such violence and cruelty
against the church of Christ! and thus did the whore of Babylon make
herself drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus! By
these persecutions the protestant church has been much diminished. Yet
have they not been able to prevail; but still
the protestant church is upheld, and Christ fulfils his promise, that
5. The last kind of opposition that Satan has made to the Reformation is by corrupt opinions. The first opposition of this kind was by the sect of the Anabaptists, which began about four or five years after the Reformation itself. This sect, as it first appeared in Germany, were vastly more extravagant than the present Anabaptists are in England. They held a great many exceeding corrupt opinions. One tenet of theirs was, that there ought to be no civil authority, and that it was lawful to rebel against it. And on this principle, they refused to submit to magistrates, or any human laws; and gathered together in vast armies, to defend themselves against their civil rulers, and put all Germany into an uproar, and so kept it for some time.
The next opposition of this kind to the Reformation was that which was made by enthusiasts. Those are called enthusiasts who falsely pretend to be inspired by the Holy Ghost as the prophets were. These began in Germany about ten years after Luther began the Reformation; and there arose various sects of them who were exceeding wild and extravagant. The followers of these are the Quakers in England, and other parts of the British dominions.
The next to these were the Socinians, who had their beginning chiefly in Poland, by the teaching of Lælius Socinus and Faustus Socinus. They held, that Christ was a mere man, and denied Christ’s satisfaction and most of the fundamental doctrines of the christian religion. Their heresy has since been greatly propagated among protestants in Poland, Germany, Holland, England, and other places.
After these arose the Arminians. They take their name from a Dutchman, whose name was Jacobus Van Harmin, which, turned into Latin, is called Jacobus Arminius; and from his name the whole sect are called Arminians. This Jacobus Arminius was first a minister at Amsterdam, and then a professor of divinity in the university of Leyden. He had many followers in Holland. There was upon this a synod of all the reformed churches called together, who met at Dort in Holland. The synod of Dort condemned them; but yet they spread and prevailed. They began to prevail in England in the reign of Charles I. especially in the church of England. The church of England divines before that were almost universally Calvinists: but since that, Arminianism has gradually more and more prevailed, till they are become almost universally Arminians. And not only so, but Arminianism has greatly prevailed among the dissenters, and has spread greatly in New England, as well as Old.
Since this, Arianism has been revived. Arianism, a little after Constantine’s time, almost swallowed up the christian world, like a flood out of the mouth of the serpent which threatened to swallow up the woman. And of late years, this heresy has been revived in England, and greatly prevails there, both in the church of England, and among dissenters. These hold, that Christ is but a mere creature, though they grant that he is the greatest of all creatures.
Another thing which has of late exceedingly prevailed among protestants, and especially in England, is deism. The deists wholly cast off the christian religion, and are professed infidels. Indeed they own the being of God; but deny any revealed religion, or any word of God at all; and say, that God has given mankind no other light to walk by but their own reason. With these opinions our nation, which is the principal nation of the Reformation, is very much overrun, and they prevail more and more. Thus much concerning the opposition that Satan has made against the Reformation.
III. I proceed now to show what success the gospel has had in these later times of the Reformed church. This success may be reduced to three heads: 1. Reformation in doctrine and worship in countries called Christian; 2. Propagation of the gospel among the heathen; 3. Revival of religion in the power and practice of it.
1. As to the first, viz. reformation in doctrine, the most considerable success of late has been in the empire of 600 Muscovy, which is a country of vast extent. The people of this country, so many of them as call themselves Christians, professed to be of the Greek church; but were barbarously ignorant, and very superstitious, till of late years. Their late emperor, Peter the Great, set himself to reform his dominions, took great pains to bring them out of their darkness, and to have them instructed in religion. To that end, he set up schools of learning, ordered the Bible to be printed in the language of the country, made a law that every family should keep the Holy Scriptures in their houses, that every person should be able to read the same, and that no person should be allowed to marry till they were able to read the Scriptures. He also reformed the churches of his country of many of their superstitions, whereby the religion professed and practised in Muscovy is much nearer to that of the protestants than formerly it used to be. This emperor gave great encouragement to the exercise of the protestant religion in his dominions. And since that, Muscovy is become a land of light, in comparison of what it was fifty years past.
2. As to the second kind of success which the gospel has lately had, viz. its propagation among the heathen, I would take notice of three things.
(1.) The propagation of the gospel among the heathen here in America. This American continent, which is a very great part of the world, and, together with its neighbouring seas adjoining, takes up one side of the globe, was wholly unknown to all christian nations till these latter times. It was not known that there was any such part of the world, though it was very full of people: and therefore the devil had this part of the world as it were secure to himself, out of the reach of the light of the gospel, and so out of the way of molestation in his dominion over them. Here the many nations of Indians worshipped him as God from age to age, while the gospel was confined to the opposite side of the globe. It is probably supposed, from some remaining accounts, that the occasion of first peopling America was this; that the devil, being alarmed and surprised by the wonderful success of the gospel the first three hundred years after Christ, and by the downfall of the heathen empire in the time of Constantine—and seeing the gospel spread so fast, and fearing that his heathenish kingdom would be wholly overthrown through the world—led away a people from the other continent into America, that they might be quite out of the reach of the gospel, that here he might quietly possess them, and reign over them as their god.—Many writers intimate, that some of the Indian nations, when the Europeans first came into America, had a tradition among them, that their god first led them into this continent, and went before them in an ark.
However, it is certain that the devil did here quietly enjoy his dominion over the poor Indians for many ages. But in later times God has sent the gospel into these parts, and now the christian church is set up here in New England, and in other parts of America, where before had been nothing but the grossest heathenish darkness. Great part of America is now full of Bibles, and full of at least the form of the worship of the true God and Jesus Christ, where the name of Christ before had not been heard of for many ages, if at all. And though there has been but a small propagation of the gospel among the heathen here, in comparison of what were to be wished for; yet there has been something worthy of notice.—There was something remarkable in New England, both at first and of late, and in other parts of America among many Indians, of an inclination to be instructed in the christian religion.
However small the propagation of the gospel among the heathen here in America has been hitherto; yet I think we may well look upon the discovery of so great a part of the world, and bringing the gospel into it, as one thing by which Divine Providence is preparing the way for the future glorious times of the church; when Satan’s kingdom shall be overthrown, throughout the whole habitable globe, on every side, and on all its continents. When those times come, then doubtless the gospel shall have glorious success, and all the inhabitants of this new-discovered world shall become subjects of the kingdom of Christ, as well as all the other ends of the earth. In all probability, Providence has so ordered it, that the mariner’s compass (which is an invention of later times, whereby men are enabled to sail over the widest ocean, when before they durst not venture far from land) should prove a preparation for what God intends to bring to pass in the glorious times of the church, viz. the sending forth the gospel wherever any of the children of men dwell, how far soever off, and however separated by wide oceans from those parts of the world which are already christianized.
(2.) There has of late years been a very considerable propagation of the gospel among the heathen in the dominions of Muscovy. I have already observed the reformation which has lately been among those who are called Christians there: but I now speak of the heathen. Great part of the vast dominions of the emperor of Muscovy are gross heathens. The greater part of Great Tartary, a heathen country, has in later times been brought under the Muscovite government; and there have been of late great numbers who have renounced their heathenism, and have embraced the christian religion.
(3.) There has been lately a very considerable propagation of the christian religion among the heathen in the East Indies; particularly, many in Malabar have been brought over to the christian protestant religion, chiefly by the labours of certain missionaries sent thither to instruct them by the king of Denmark, who have brought over many heathens to the christian faith, and have set up schools among them, and a printing-press to print Bibles and other books for their instruction, in their own language, with great success.
3. The last kind of success which I shall notice, is the revivals of the power and practice of religion. And here I shall take notice of but two instances.
(1.) There has been not long since a remarkable revival of the power and practice of religion in Germany, through the endeavours of an eminent divine there, August Herman Frank, professor of divinity at Halle in Saxony. Being a person of eminent charity, the great work that God wrought by him, began with his setting on foot a charitable design. It began only with his placing an alms-box at his study-door, into which some poor mites were thrown, whereby books were bought for the instruction of the poor. And God was pleased so wonderfully to smile on his design, and so to pour out a spirit of charity on that occasion, that he was enabled in a little time to erect public schools for the instruction of poor children, and an orphan-house for their supply and instruction.—At last, near five hundred children were maintained and instructed in learning and piety by the charity of others; and the number continued to increase more and more for many years. This was accompanied with a wonderful reformation and revival of religion, and a spirit of piety, in the city and university of Halle; and thus it continued. Which also had great influence in many other places in Germany. Their example seemed remarkably to stir up multitudes to their imitation.
(2.) Another thing, which it would be ungrateful in us not to notice, is that remarkable pouring out of the Spirit of God which has been of late in this part of New England, of which we, in this town, have had such a share. But it is needless for me particularly to describe it, seeing you have so lately been eye-witnesses of it, and I hope multitudes are sensible of the benefit. Thus I have mentioned the more remarkable instances of the success which the gospel has lately had in the world.
IV. I proceed now to the last thing proposed to be considered, relating to the success of Christ’s redemption during this space, viz. what is the present state of things now in the world, with regard to the church of Christ, and the success of his purchase. And this I would do, by showing how things are now compared with the first times of the Reformation.—And, 1. I would show wherein the state of things is altered for the worse; and, 2. How it is altered for the better.
1. I would show wherein the state of things is altered from what it was in the beginning of the Reformation, for the worse; and it is so especially in these three respects.
(1.) The reformed church is much diminished. The Reformation, in former times, was supposed to take place through one half of Christendom, excepting the Greek church; or that there were as many protestants as papists. 601 But now it is not so; the protestant church is much diminished. Heretofore there have been multitudes of protestants in France; many famous protestant churches were planted all over that country, who used to meet together in synods, and maintain a very regular discipline. The protestant church of France was a great part of the glory of the Reformation. But now it is far otherwise: this church is all broken and scattered, and there are now but very few protestant assemblies in all that kingdom. The protestant interest is also greatly diminished in Germany. There were formerly several sovereign protestant princes, whose successors are now papists; as, particularly the Elector Palatine, and the Elector of Saxony. The kingdom of Bohemia was formerly a protestant kingdom, but is now in the hands of the papists. Hungary was formerly a protestant country; but the protestants there have been greatly reduced, and in a great measure subdued, by persecutions. And the protestant interest has no way of late remarkably gained ground of the church of Rome.
(2.) Another thing wherein the state of things is altered for the worse compared with the former times of the Reformation, is the prevailing of licentiousness in principles and opinions.—There is not now that spirit of orthodoxy which then prevailed: there is very little appearance of zeal for the mysterious and spiritual doctrines of Christianity; and they never were so held in contempt, as they are in the present age; and especially in England, the principal kingdom of the Reformation. In this kingdom, those principles on which the power of godliness depends, are in a great measure exploded, and Arianism, Socinianism, Arminianism, and Deism, prevail, and carry almost all before them. History gives no account of any age wherein there was so great an infidel apostacy of those who had been brought up under the light of the gospel; never was there such a disavowal of all revealed religion; never any age wherein there was so much scoffing at and ridiculing the gospel of Christ by those who have been brought up under the gospel-light.
(3.) Another thing wherein things are altered for the worse, is, that there is much less of the prevalency of the power of godliness, than there was at the beginning of the Reformation. A glorious out-pouring of the Spirit of God accompanied the first Reformation, not only to convert multitudes in so short a time from popery to the true religion, but to turn many to God and true godliness. But now there is an exceeding great decay of vital piety; yea, it seems to be despised, called enthusiasm, and fanaticism. Those who are truly religious, are commonly looked upon to be beside their right mind; and vice and profaneness dreadfully prevail, like a flood which threatens to bear down all before it.—But I proceed now to show,
2. In what respects things are altered for the better from what they were in the first Reformation.
(1.) The power and influence of the pope is much diminished. Although, since the former times of the Reformation, he has gained ground in extent of dominion; yet he has lost in degree of influence. The vial which in the beginning of the Reformation was poured out on the throne of the beast, to the great diminishing of his power and authority in the world, has continued running ever since. The pope, soon after the Reformation, became less regarded by the princes of Europe than he had been before; and so he has been since less and less. Many of the popish princes themselves seem now to regard him very little more than they think will serve their own designs; of which there have been several remarkable proofs and instances of late.
(2.) There is far less persecution now than there was in the first times of the reformation. Some parts of the protestant church are at this day under persecution, and so probably will be till the day of the church’s suffering and travail is at an end, which will not be till the fall of Antichrist. But it is now in no measure as it was heretofore. There does not seem to be the same spirit of persecution prevailing; it is become more out of fashion even among the popish princes. The wickedness of the enemies of Christ, and the opposition against his cause, seem to run in another channel. The humour now is to despise and laugh at all religion; and there seems to be a spirit of indifferency about it. However, so far the state of things is better than it has been, that there is so much less of persecution.
3. There is a great increase of learning.
In the dark times of popery, before the Reformation, learning was so
far decayed, that the world seemed to be overrun with barbarous
ignorance. Their very priests were many of them grossly ignorant.
Learning began to revive with the Reformation, owing very much to the
art of printing which was invented a little before this period. Since
then, learning has increased more and more, and at this day is
undoubtedly raised to
a vastly greater height than ever it was before: and though no good use
is made of it by the greater part of learned men, yet the increase of
learning in itself is a thing to be rejoiced in, because it is a good,
and, if duly applied, an excellent handmaid to divinity. It is a talent
which, if God gives men a heart, affords them great advantage to do
great things for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, and the good
of the souls of men. That learning and knowledge should greatly
before the glorious times, seems to be foretold,
his providence now seems to be acting over again the same part which he
did a little before Christ came. When Christ came into the world,
learning greatly prevailed; and yet wickedness never prevailed more
than then. God was pleased to suffer human learning to come to such a
height before he sent forth the gospel into the world, that the world
might see the insufficiency of all their own wisdom for the obtaining
the knowledge of God, without the gospel of
Christ, and the teaching of his Spirit. When, in the wisdom of God, the
world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of
preaching, to save them that believe. And when the gospel came to
prevail first without the help of man’s wisdom, then God was pleased to
make use of learning as a handmaid. So now, learning is at a great
height in the world, far beyond what it was in the age when Christ
appeared; and now the world, by their learning and wisdom, do not know
God; and they
seem to wander in darkness, are miserably deluded, stumble and fall in
matters of religion, as in midnight darkness. Trusting to their
learning, they grope in the day-time as in the night. Learned men are
exceedingly divided in their opinions concerning the matters of
religion, running into all manner of corrupt opinions, pernicious and
foolish errors. They scorn to submit their reason to divine revelation,
to believe anything that is above their comprehension; and so being
wise in their own
eyes, they become fools, and even vain in their imaginations; they turn
the truth of God into a lie, and their foolish hearts are darkened. See
yet, when God has sufficiently shown men the insufficiency of human
wisdom and learning for the purposes of religion, and when the
appointed time comes for that glorious outpouring of the Spirit of God,
when he will himself by his own immediate influence enlighten men’s
minds; then may we hope that God will make use of the great increase of
learning as a handmaid of religion, as a means of the glorious
advancement of the kingdom of his Son. Then shall human
learning be subservient to the understanding of the Scriptures, and to
a clear explanation and a glorious defence of the doctrines of
Christianity. And there is no doubt, that God in his providence has of
late given the world the art of printing, and such a great increase of
learning, to prepare for what he designs to accomplish for his church
in the approaching days of its prosperity. And thus the wealth of the
wicked is laid up for the just,
PART VI. Improvement of past Events.
IMPROVEMENT OF PAST EVENTS
Having now shown how the work of redemption has been carried on from the fall of man to the present time, before I proceed any further, I would make some application.
I. From what has been said, we may see great evidence of the truth of the christian religion, and that the Scriptures are the word of God. There are three arguments of this, which may be drawn from what has been said.
1. It may be argued from that violent and inveterate opposition there has always appeared of the wickedness of the world against this religion. The religion that the church of God has professed from the first, has always been the same. Though the dispensations have been altered, yet the religion which the church has professed has always, as to its essentials, been the same. The church of God, from the beginning, has been one society. The christian church is manifestly the same society continued, that was before Christ came; grafted on the same root, built on the same foundation. The revelation on which both have depended, is essentially the same: for as the christian church is built on the Holy Scriptures, so was the Jewish church. Though now the Scriptures are enlarged by the addition of the New Testament, still it is essentially the same revelation with that which was given in the Old Testament, only the subjects of divine revelation are now more clearly revealed in the New Testament than they were in the Old. The sum of both the Old Testament and New, is Christ and his redemption. The ground-work of the religion of the church of God, both before and since Christ has appeared, is the same great scheme of redemption by the Son of God. The church that was before the Israelitish church, was still the same society, and it was essentially the same religion that was professed and practised in it. Thus it was from Noah to Abraham, and thus it was before the flood; for this also was built on the foundation of those revelations of Christ which were given to Adam, and Enoch. So that the church of God has always been built on those divine revelations, and were always essentially the same, and they are summarily comprehended in the Holy Scriptures. Ever since Moses’s time the church has been built on the Scriptures themselves.
So that the opposition which has been made to the church of God in all ages, has always been against the same religion, and the same revelation. Now therefore the violent and perpetual opposition that has ever been made by the corruption and wickedness of mankind against this church, is a strong argument of the truth of this religion, and this revelation, upon which this church has always been built. Contraries are well argued one from another. We may well and safely argue, that a thing is good, according to the degree of opposition in which it stands to evil, or the degree in which evil opposes it, and is an enemy to it. Now it is evident by the things which you have heard concerning the church of Christ, and that holy religion of Jesus Christ which it has professed, that the wickedness of the world has had a perpetual hatred to it, and has made most violent opposition against it.
the church of God has always met with great opposition in the world,
none can deny. This is plain by profane history as far as that reaches;
and before that, divine history gives us the same account. The church
of God, its religion and worship, began to be opposed in the time of
Cain and Abel; and was so when the earth was filled with violence in
Noah’s time. After this, how was the church opposed in Egypt! and how
was Israel always hated by the nations round
about, agreeable to
There is no other such instance of opposition. History gives no account of any other body of men that have been so hated, and so maliciously and insatiably pursued and persecuted, nor any thing like it. No other religion ever was so maligned age after age. The nations of other professions have enjoyed their religions in peace and quietness, however they have differed from their neighbours. One nation has worshipped one sort of gods, and others another, without molesting or disturbing one another about it. All the spite and opposition has been against this religion, which the church of Christ has professed. All other religions have seemed to show an implacable enmity to this; and men have seemed to have, from one age to another, such a spite against it, that they have seemed as though they could never satisfy their cruelty. They put their inventions upon the rack to find out torments that should be cruel enough; and yet, after all, never seemed to be satisfied. Their thirst has never been satisfied with blood.
So that it is out of doubt, that this religion, and these Scriptures, have always been malignantly opposed in the world. The only question that remains is, What it is that has made this opposition? whether or not it has been good or bad? whether it be the wickedness and corruption of the world, or not, that has done this? But of this there can be no greater doubt than that of the other, if we consider how causeless this cruelty has always been, who the opposers have been, and the manner in which they have opposed. The opposition has chiefly been from heathenism and popery; which are the fruits of the blindness, corruption, and wickedness of men, as the very deists themselves confess. The light of nature shows, that the religion of heathens, consisting in the worship of idols, and sacrificing their children to them, and in obscene and abominable rites and ceremonies, is wickedness. And the superstitions, idolatries, and usurpations of the church of Rome, are no less contrary to the light of nature. By this appears, that this opposition which has been made against the church of God, has been made by wicked men. And with regard to the opposition of the Jews in Christ’s and the apostles’ time, it was in a most corrupt time of that nation, when the people were generally become exceeding wicked, as some of the Jewish writers themselves, Josephus and others, who lived about that time, expressly declare. And that it has been mere wickedness that has made this opposition, is manifest from the manner of opposition; the extreme violence, injustice, and cruelty, with which the church of God has been treated. It seems to show the hand of malignant infernal spirits.
Now what reason can be assigned, why the corruption and wickedness of the world should so implacably set itself against this religion of Jesus Christ, and against the Scriptures, but only that they are contrary to wickedness, and consequently are good and holy? Why should the enemies of Christ, for so many thousand years together, manifest such a mortal hatred of this religion, but only that it is the cause of God? If the Scriptures be not the word of God, and the religion of the church of Christ be not the true religion, then it must follow, that it is a most wicked religion; nothing but a pack of lies and abominable delusions, invented by the enemies of God. And if so, it is not likely that the enemies of God, and the wickedness of the world, would have maintained such a perpetual and implacable enmity against it.
2. It is a great argument that the christian church and its religion is from God, that it has been upheld hitherto through all opposition and dangers. That the church of God and the true religion, which has been so continually and violently opposed, with so many endeavours to overthrow it—and which has so often been brought to the brink of ruin, through the greatest part of six thousand years— has yet been upheld, most remarkably shows the hand of God in favour of the church. If duly considered, it will 603appear one of the greatest wonders and miracles that ever came to pass. There is nothing like it upon the face of the earth. There is no other society of men that has stood as the church has. As to the old world before the flood, that was overthrown by a deluge of waters; but yet the church of God was preserved. Satan’s visible kingdom on earth was then once entirely overthrown; but the visible kingdom of Christ never has been overthrown. All those ancient human kingdoms and monarchies of which we read, are long since come to an end; the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, &c. The great empire of proud Babylon was overthrown by the Persians; then the Persian empire was overthrown by the Greeks; after this the Grecian empire was overthrown by the Romans; and, finally, the Roman empire fell a sacrifice to various barbarous nations. Here is a remarkable fulfilment of the text, “The moth has eaten them up like a garment, and the worm has eaten them like wool; but God’s church remains.  “
Never were there so many and so potent endeavours to destroy anything else, as there has been to destroy the church. Other kingdoms and societies of men, which have appeared to be ten times as strong as the church, have been destroyed with a hundredth part of the opposition which the church of God has met with: which shows, that it is God who has been its protector. For it is most plain, that it has not upheld itself by its own strength. For the most part, it has been a very weak society. The children of Israel were but a handful of people, in comparison of the many who often sought their overthrow. So in Christ’s time, and in the beginning of the christian church, they were but a remnant: whereas the whole multitude of the Jewish nation were against them. And so in the beginning of the Gentile church, they were but a small number in comparison with the heathen, who sought their overthrow. In the dark times of Antichrist, before the Reformation, they were but a handful; and yet their enemies could not overthrow them. And commonly, the enemies of the church have not only had the greatest number on their side, but they have had the strength in other respects. They have commonly had all the civil authority on their side. So in Egypt, the civil authority was for the Egyptians, and the church were only their slaves, and in their hands; and yet they could not overthrow them. And so it was in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, and Julian the apostate, the authority was all on the side of the persecutors, and the church was under their dominion; yet all their cruelty could not extirpate it. And for a great many ages, the civil authority was all on the side of Antichrist, and the church seemed to be in their hands.
And not only has the strength of its enemies been greater than that of the church, but ordinarily the church has not used what strength they have had in their own defence, but have committed themselves wholly to God. In the time of the Jewish persecutions before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and of the heathen persecutions before Constantine, the Christians did not pretend to make any forcible resistance to their heathen persecutors. So it has been for the most part under the popish persecutions; and yet they have never been able to overthrow the church of God; but it stands to this very day.
And this is still the more exceeding wonderful, if we consider how often the church has been brought to the brink of ruin, and the case seemed to be desperate. In the time of the old world, when wickedness so prevailed as that but one family was left, yet God wonderfully appeared, and overthrew the wicked world with a flood, and preserved his church. At the Red sea, when Pharaoh and his host thought they were quite sure of their prey, God appeared, destroyed them, and delivered his church. Under the tenth and last heathen persecution, their persecutors boasted that now they had done the business for the Christians, and overthrown the christian church; yet in the midst of their triumph, the christian church rises out of the dust and prevails, and the heathen empire totally falls before it. So when the christian church seemed ready to be swallowed up by the Arian heresy, when Antichrist rose and prevailed, and all the world wondered after the beast; when the church for many hundred years was reduced to a small number, and the power of the world was engaged to destroy those little remnants; yet they could never fully accomplish their design, and at last God wonderfully revived his church by the Reformation, made it to stand as it were on its feet in the sight of its enemies, and raised it out of their reach. And when the popish powers plotted the overthrow of the Reformed church, and seemed just about to bring their matters to a conclusion, then God wonderfully appeared for the deliverance of his church, as at the Revolution by King William. Presently after the darkest times, God has made his church most gloriously to flourish.
If such a preservation of the church of God, from the beginning of the world hitherto, attended with such circumstances, is not sufficient to show a divine hand in favour of it, what can be devised that would be sufficient? But if this be from the divine hand, then God owns the church, and owns that revelation and those Scriptures on which she is built; and so it will follow, that their religion is the true religion, or God’s religion, and that the Scriptures, which they make their rule, are his word.
3. We may draw this further argument for the divine authority of the Scriptures from what has been said, viz. that God has fulfilled those things which are foretold in the Scriptures.—I have already observed in general, as I went along, how the prophecies of Scripture were fulfilled: I shall now single out but two instances of the fulfilment of scripture prophecy.
(1.) One is in preserving
his church from being ruined. I have just now shown what an evidence
this is of the divine authority of the Scriptures in itself considered;
I now speak of it as a fulfilment of scripture prophecy. This is
abundantly foretold and promised in the Scriptures; particularly in the
text. There it is foretold, that other things shall fail, other
kingdoms and monarchies, which set themselves in opposition, should
come to nothing: “The moth
should eat them up like a garment, and the worm should eat them like
It is here foretold, that God’s covenant mercy to his church should
continue for ever; and so it hath hitherto proved, though the church
has passed through so many dangers. The same is promised,
(2.) The other remarkable instance is, the fulfilment of scripture prophecy, concerning Antichrist. The way that this Antichrist should arise, is foretold, viz. by the falling away of the christian church into a corrupt state:
Further, it was prophesied, that this Antichrist should reign over peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues,
II. From what has been said, we may learn what the spirit of true Christians is, viz. a spirit of suffering. Seeing God has so ordered it in his providence, that his church should for so long a time be in a suffering state, yea, often in a state of extreme suffering, we may conclude, that the spirit of the true church is a suffering spirit, otherwise God never would have ordered for it so much suffering; for doubtless God accommodates the state and circumstances of the church to the spirit that he has given her. No wonder therefore that Christ so much inculcated upon his disciples, that they must deny themselves, and take up their cross, if they would follow him.
And what spirit has the church shown and exercised under her sufferings? She has actually, under those terrible persecutions through which she has passed, rather chosen to undergo those dreadful torments, and to sell all for the pearl of great price, to suffer all that her bitterest enemies could inflict, than to renounce Christ and his religion. History affords a great number of remarkable instances, sets in view a great cloud of witnesses. This abundantly confirms the necessity of possessing a spirit to sell all for Christ, to renounce our own ease, our own worldly profit, our honour, and our all, for him, and for the gospel.
us inquire whether we are of such a spirit. How does it prove upon
trial? Does it prove in fact that we are willing to deny ourselves, and
renounce our own worldly interest, and to pass through the trials to
which we are called in providence? Alas, how small are our trials,
compared with those of many of our fellow-Christians in former ages!
And I would on this occasion apply that in
III. Hence we learn what great reason we have assuredly to expect the fulfilment of what yet remains
to be fulfilled of things foretold in Scripture. The Scriptures
foretell many great things yet to be fulfilled before the end of the
world; but what great difficulties seem to be in the way! We seem at
present to be very far from such a state as is foretold in the
Scriptures; but yet we have abundant reason to expect, that these
things, however seemingly
difficult, will be accomplished in their season. We see the
faithfulness of God to his promises hitherto; how true he has been to
his church, and how he has remembered his mercy from generation to
generation. We may say concerning what God has done hitherto for his
church, as Joshua said to the children of Israel,
PART VII. To the Fall of Antichrist.
THE SUCCESS OF REDEMPTION FROM THE PRESENT TIME TO THE FALL OF ANTICHRIST.
I come now to show how the success of Christ’s redemption will be carried on from the present time, till Antichrist is fallen, and Satan’s visible kingdom on earth is destroyed.—With respect to this space of time, we have nothing to guide us but the prophecies of Scripture. 605Through most of the time from the fall of man to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, we had scripture history to guide us; and from thence to the present time we had prophecy, together with the accomplishment of it in providence, as related in human histories. But henceforward we have prophecy alone to guide us. And here I would pass by those things that are only conjectured, or that are surmised by some from those prophecies which are doubtful in their interpretation, and shall insist only on those things which are more evident.
know not what particular events are to come to pass before that
glorious work of God’s Spirit begins, by which Satan’s kingdom is to be
overthrown. By the consent of most divines, there are but few things,
if any at all, foretold to be accomplished before the beginning of that glorious work of God. But some think that the slaying of the witnesses, (
But whatever this be, it does not appear that it is any thing which shall be accomplished before that work of God’s Spirit is begun, by which, as it goes on, Satan’s visible kingdom on earth shall be utterly overthrown. And therefore I would proceed directly to consider what the Scripture reveals concerning the work of God itself, by which he will bring about this great event, as being the next thing to be accomplished that we are certain of from the prophecies of Scripture.
I. I would observe some things in general concerning it.
1. We have all reason to conclude from the Scriptures, that just before this work of God begins, it will be a very dark time
with respect to the interests of religion in the world. It has been so
before preceding glorious revivals of religion: when Christ came, it
was an exceeding degenerate time among the Jews; and so it was a very
dark time before the Reformation. And not only so, but it seems to be
foretold in Scripture, that it shall be a time of but little
religion, when Christ shall come to set up his kingdom in the world.
Thus when Christ spake of his coming, to encourage his elect, who cry
to him day and night, in
It is now
a very dark time with respect to the interests of religion, wherein
there is but a little faith, and a great prevailing of infidelity on
the earth. There is now a remarkable fulfilment of that in
There is no reason from the word of God to think any other, than that
this great work of God will be wrought, though very swiftly, yet gradually. As the children of Israel were gradually brought out of the Babylonish captivity, first one company, and then another, and gradually rebuilt their city and temple; and as the heathen Roman empire was destroyed by a gradual,
though a very swift, prevalency of the gospel; so, though there are
things which seem to hold forth that the work of God would be exceeding
swift,—and many great and wonderful events should very suddenly be
brought to pass, and some great parts of Satan’s visible kingdom should
have a very sudden fall,—yet all will not be accomplished at once, as
by some great miracle, like the resurrection of the dead. But this work
will be accomplished by means, by the preaching of the gospel, and the use of the ordinary means of grace, and so shall be gradually
brought to pass. Some shall be converted, and be the means of others’
conversion. God’s Spirit shall be poured out first to raise up
instruments, and then those instruments shall be used with success. And
doubtless one nation shall be enlightened and converted, and one false
religion and false way of worship exploded, after another. By the
II. I now proceed to show how this glorious work shall be accomplished.
1. The Spirit of God shall be gloriously poured out for the wonderful revival and propagation
of religion. This great work shall he accomplished, not by the
authority of princes, nor by the wisdom of learned men, but by God’s
pouring out of the Spirit of God, when it is begun, shall soon bring
great multitudes to forsake that vice and wickedness which now so
generally prevails; and shall cause that vital religion, which is now
so despised and laughed at in the world, to revive. The work of
conversion shall break forth, and go on in such a manner as never has
been hitherto; agreeable to
This was typified of old by the sounding of the silver trumpets in Israel in the beginning of their jubilee:
work of conversion shall go on in a wonderful manner, and spread more
and more. Many shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, one
multitude after another continually, as in
This pouring out of the Spirit of God will not affect the overthrow of
Satan’s visible kingdom, till there has first been a violent and mighty opposition
made. In this the Scripture is plain, that when Christ is thus
gloriously coming forth, when the destruction of Antichrist is ready at
hand, and Satan’s kingdom begins to totter, the powers of the kingdom
of darkness will rise up, and mightily exert themselves. Thus after the
pouring out of the sixth vial,
which was to dry up the river Euphrates, to prepare the way for the
destruction of spiritual Babylon, (
When the Spirit begins to be so gloriously poured forth, when the devil sees such multitudes flocking to Christ in one nation and another, when the foundations and pillars of his kingdom are ready to come to swift and sudden destruction, all hell will be greatly alarmed. Satan has ever had a dread of having his kingdom overthrown, and has been doing great works to prevent it, especially since the day of Constantine the Great. To this end he set up those mighty kingdoms of Antichrist and Mahomet, and brought in all the heresies, superstitions, and corrupt opinions in the world. But when he sees all begin to fail, it will rouse him exceedingly. If Satan of old dreaded being cast out of the Roman empire, how much more does he dread being cast out of the whole world!
It seems, in this last great opposition, all the forces of Antichrist, and Mahometanism, and heathenism, will be united; all the forces of Satan’s visible kingdom through the whole world of mankind. And therefore it is said, that “spirits of devils shall go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them together to the battle of the great day of God Almighty.  “ And these spirits are said to come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet; i. e. there shall be the spirit of popery, the spirit of Mahometanism, and the spirit of heathenism all united. By the beast is meant Antichrist; by the dragon, in this book, is commonly meant the devil, as he reigns over his heathen kingdom: by the false prophet, is sometimes meant the pope and his clergy; but here an eye seems to be had to Mahomet, whom his followers call the great prophet of God. This will be as it were the dying struggles of the old serpent; a battle wherein he will fight as one that is almost desperate.
We know not particularly in what manner this opposition shall be made. It is represented as a battle; it is called the battle of the great day of God Almighty.
There will be some way or other a mighty struggle between Satan’s
kingdom and the church, and probably in all ways of opposition that can
be; and doubtless great opposition by external force. The princes of
the world who are on the devil’s side shall join hand in hand; for it
is said, “The kings of the
earth are gathered together to battle,”
3. Christ and his church shall in this battle obtain a complete and entire victory
over their enemies. They shall be totally routed and overthrown in this
their last effort. When the powers of hell and earth are thus gathered
together against Christ, and his armies shall come forth against them
by his word and Spirit, in how august and glorious a manner is this
advance of Christ with his church described,
In this victory, the seventh vial shall be poured out. It is said,
The angel who set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the earth, lift up his hand to heaven, and swore by him that liveth for ever and ever, &c. that when the seventh angel should come to sound, the time should be no longer.—And now the time is come; now the seventh trumpet sounds, and the seventh vial is poured out, both together; intimating, that now all is finished as to the overthrow of Satan’s visible kingdom on earth. This victory shall be by far the greatest that ever was obtained over Satan and his adherents. By this blow, with which the stone cut out of the mountain without hands shall strike the image of gold, and silver, and brass, and iron, and clay, it shall all be broken to pieces. This will be a finishing blow to the image, so that it shall become as the chaff of the summer threshing-floor.
In this victory will be a most glorious display of divine power. Christ shall therein appear in the character of
King of kings, and Lord of lords, as in
III. Consequent on this victory, Satan’s visible kingdom on earth shall be destroyed.
When Satan is conquered in this last battle, the church of Christ will
have easy work of it; as when Joshua and the children of Israel had
obtained that great victory over the five kings of the Amorites. When
God sent great hail-stones on their enemies, they had easy work of
subduing the cities and country to which they belonged. So it was also
after the other great battle that
Joshua had with a great multitude at the waters of Merom. After this
glorious victory of Christ and his church over their enemies, the chief
powers of Satan’s kingdom, they shall destroy that kingdom in all those
cities and countries to which they belonged. After this the word of God
shall have a speedy and swift progress through the earth; as it is
said, that on the pouring out of the seventh vial, “the cities of the
nations fell, and every island fled away, and the mountains were not
Concerning this overthrow of Satan’s visible kingdom on earth, I would show wherein it will chiefly consist, with its extent and universality.
1. I would show wherein this overthrow of Satan’s kingdom will chiefly consist. I shall mention the particular things in which it will consist, without pretending to determine in what order they shall come to pass, or which shall be accomplished first, or whether they shall be accomplished together.
(1.) Heresies, infidelity, and superstition,
among those who have been brought up under the light of the gospel,
will then be abolished; and particularly deism, which is now so bold
and confident in infidelity, shall be driven away, and vanish to nothing. All shall agree in the same great and important doctrines of the gospel;
(2.) The kingdom of Antichrist
shall be utterly overthrown. His dominion has been much brought down
already by the vial poured out on his throne in the Reformation; but
then it shall be utterly destroyed. Then shall be proclaimed, “Babylon
is fallen, is fallen.
When the seventh angel sounds, “the time, times, and half a time, shall
be out; and the time shall be no longer.” Then shall be accomplished
concerning Antichrist the things which are written (
(3.) Satan’s Mahometan kingdom shall be utterly overthrown. The locusts and horsemen in the
(4.) Jewish infidelity
shall then be overthrown. However obstinate they have been now for
above seventeen hundred years in their rejection of Christ, and however
rare have been the instances of individual conversions, ever since the
destruction of Jerusalem—but they have, against the plain teachings of
their own prophets, continued to approve of the cruelty of their
forefathers in crucifying Christ—yet, when this day comes, the thick
vail that blinds their eyes
shall be removed,
Nothing is more certainly foretold than this national conversion of the Jews, in
(5.) Then shall also Satan’s heathenish kingdom be overthrown. Gross heathenism now possesses a great part of the earth, and there are supposed to be more heathens 608 now in the world, than of all other professions taken together. But then the heathen nations shall be enlightened with the glorious gospel. There will be a wonderful spirit of pity towards them, and zeal for their instruction and conversion put into multitudes, and many shall go forth and carry the gospel unto them. Then shall the joyful sound be heard among them, and the Sun of righteousness shall arise with his glorious light shining on those vast regions of the earth that have been covered with heathenish darkness for many thousand years. Many of them doubtless ever since the times of Moses and Abraham, have lain thus in a miserable condition, under the cruel tyranny of the devil, who has all this while blinded and befooled them, domineered over them, and made a prey of them. Now the glad tidings of the gospel shall sound there, and they shall be brought out of darkness into marvellous light.
is promised, that heathenism shall thus be destroyed in many places.
God has said, That the gods that have not made these heavens and this
earth, shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens,
2. Having thus shown wherein this overthrow of Satan’s kingdom will consist, I come now to observe its universal extent.
The visible kingdom of Satan shall be overthrown, and the kingdom of
Christ set up on the ruins of it, every where throughout the whole
habitable globe. Now shall the promise made to Abraham be fulfilled,
That in him and in his seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed; and Christ now shall become the desire of all
nations, agreeable to
devil was cast out of the Roman empire, because that was the highest
and principal part of the world, and the other nations that were left
were low and mean in comparison, it was represented as Satan’s being
cast out of heaven to the earth,
judgments and fearful destruction shall now be executed on God’s
enemies. There will doubtless at the introducing of this dispensation
be a visible and awful hand of God against blasphemers, deists,
obstinate heretics, and other enemies of Christ, terribly destroying
them, with remarkable tokens of wrath and vengeance. More especially
will this dispensation be attended with terrible judgments on
Antichrist; the cruel persecutors who belong to the church of
Rome, shall in a most awful manner be destroyed; which is compared to a
casting of Antichrist into the burning flame,
shall this cruel persecuting church suffer those judgments from God,
which shall be far more dreadful than her persecutions of the saints,
shall put an end to the church’s suffering state, and shall be attended
with their glorious and joyful praises. The church’s afflicted state
has been continued, excepting some short intermissions, from the
resurrection of Christ to this time; but now shall a final end be put
to her suffering state. Indeed after this, near the end of the world,
the church shall be greatly threatened; but it is said, it shall be but
for a little season,
time before this, had been the church’s sowing-time, wherein she sowed
in tears and in blood; but now is her harvest, wherein she will come
again rejoicing, bringing her sheaves with her. Now the time of travail
of the woman clothed with the sun is at an end; now she hath brought
forth her son: for this glorious setting up of the kingdom of Christ
through the world, is what the church had been in travail for, with
such terrible pangs, for so many ages:
This dispensation is above all preceding ones like Christ’s coming to judgment, in that it so puts an end to the former state of the world, and introduces the everlasting kingdom of Christ. Now Satan’s visible kingdom shall be overthrown, after it had stood ever since the building of Babel; the old heavens and the old earth shall in a greater measure pass away, and the new heavens and new earth be set up in a far more glorious manner, than ever before.—Thus I have shown how the success of Christ’s purchase has been carried on through the times of the afflicted state of the christian church, from Christ’s resurrection till Antichrist is fallen, and Satan’s visible kingdom on earth is overthrown.
PART VIII. To the End of Time.
THE SUCCESS OF REDEMPTION THROUGH THAT SPACE WHEREIN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH SHALL, FOR THE MOST PART, BE IN A STATE OF PEACE AND PROSPERITY.
In order to describe this part, I would speak, first, of the prosperous state of the church through the greatest part of this period; and, secondly, of the great apostacy there shall be towards the close of it.
I. I would speak of the prosperous state of the church through the greater part of this period. And in the general, I would observe two things,
1. That this is most properly the time of the kingdom of heaven upon earth. Though the kingdom of heaven was in a degree set up soon after Christ’s resurrection, and in a further degree in the time of Constantine; and though the christian church in all ages of it is called the kingdom of heaven; yet this is the principal time of the kingdom of heaven upon earth, the time principally intended by the prophecies of Daniel whence the Jews took the name of the kingdom of heaven.
2. Now is the principal fulfilment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament which speak of the glorious times of the gospel in the latter days. Though there has been a glorious fulfilment of those prophecies already, in the times of the apostles, and of Constantine; yet the expressions are too high to suit any other time entirely, but that which is to succeed the fall of Antichrist. This is most properly the glorious day of the gospel. Other times are only forerunners and preparatory to this: those were the seed-time, but this is the harvest. But more particularly,
(1.) It will be a time of great light and knowledge.
The present, are days of darkness, in comparison of those days.—The
light of that glorious time shall be so great, that it is represented
as though there should then be no night, but only day; no evening nor
is a kind of vail now cast over the greater part of the world, which
keeps them in darkness; but then this vail shall be destroyed:
shall then be a wonderful unravelling of the difficulties in the
doctrines of religion, and clearing up of seeming inconsistencies:
(2.) It shall be a time of great holiness.
Now vital religion shall every where prevail and reign. Religion shall
not be an empty profession, as it now mostly is, but holiness of heart
and life shall abundantly prevail. Those times shall be an exception
from what Christ says of the ordinary state of the church, viz. that there shall be but few saved; for now holiness shall become general:
(3.) It shall be a time wherein religion shall in every respect be uppermost
in the world. It shall be had in great esteem and honour. The saints
have hitherto for the most part been kept under, and wicked men have
governed. But now they will be uppermost. The kingdom shall be given
into the hands of the saints of the “most high God,”
(4.) Those will be times of great peace and love.
There shall then be universal peace and a good understanding among the
nations of the world, instead of confusion, wars, and bloodshed.
shall malice, and envy, and wrath, and revenge, be suppressed every
where; and peace and love shall prevail between one man and another;
which is most elegantly set forth in
shall all the world be united in one amiable society. All nations, in
all parts of the world, on every side of the globe, shall then be knit
together in sweet harmony. All parts of God’s church shall assist and
promote the spiritual good of one another. A communication shall then
be upheld between all parts of the world to that end; and the art of
navigation, which is now applied so much to favour men’s covetousness
and pride, and is used so much by wicked
debauched men, shall then be consecrated to God, and applied to holy
(5.) It will be a time of excellent order
in the church of Christ. The true government and discipline of the
church will then be settled and put into practice. All the world shall
then be as one church, one orderly, regular, beautiful society. And as
the body shall be one, so the members shall be in beautiful proportion
to each other. Then shall that be verified in
(6.) The church of God shall then be beautiful and glorious on these accounts; yea, it will appear in the perfection of beauty:
(7.) That will be a time of the greatest temporal prosperity.
Such a spiritual state as we have just described, has a natural
tendency to health and long life; and that this will actually be the
case, is evident by
(8.) It will also be a time of great rejoicing:
Scriptures every where represent this prosperity to be of long
continuance. The former intervals of rest and prosperity, as we before
observed, are represented to be but short; but the representations of
this state are quite different:
II. I now come to speak of the great apostacy there should be towards the close of this period, and how the church should, for a short time, be threatened by her enemies. And this I shall do under three particulars.
1. A little before the end of the world, a great part of the world shall fall away from Christ and his church. It is said,
after a happy and glorious season, such a long day of light and
holiness, of love and peace, and joy, it shall again be a dark time.
Satan shall begin to set up his dominion again in the world; and this
world shall again become a scene of darkness and wickedness. The
bottomless pit shall be opened, and devils shall come up again out of
it, and a dreadful smoke shall ascend to darken the world. And the
church of Christ, instead of extending to the utmost bounds of
the world, as it did before, shall be reduced to narrow limits. The
world of mankind being continued so long in a state of great prosperity
shall now begin to abuse their prosperity, to serve their lust and
corruption. This we learn from
2. Those apostates shall make great opposition to the church of God. The church shall be threatened with a sudden and entire overthrow by them. It is said, Satan shall gather them together to battle, as the sand on the seashore; and they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city. So that this beloved city shall seem just ready to be swallowed up by them: for her enemies shall not only threaten her, but shall actually have gathered together against her; and not only so, but shall have besieged her, shall have compassed her about on every side.—However, there is nothing in the prophecy which seems to hold forth, that the church had actually fallen into their hands, as it had fallen into the hands of Antichrist, to whom it was given to make war with the saints, and to overcome them. God will never suffer this to take place after the fall of Antichrist; for then the day of her mourning shall be ended, alarmingly threatened with utter and sudden destruction.
3. Now the state of things will seem most remarkably to call for Christ’s immediate appearance to judgment. For then the world shall be filled with the most aggravated wickedness. For much the greater part of the world shall have become visibly wicked and open enemies to Christ, and their wickedness shall be dreadfully aggravated by their apostacy. Before the fall of Antichrist, most of the world was full of visibly wicked men. But the greater part of these are poor heathens, who never enjoyed the light of the gospel; and others are those that have been bred up in the Mahometan or popish darkness. But these have apostatized from the christian church, the visible kingdom of Christ, in which they enjoyed the great light and privileges of glorious times, which shall be incomparably greater than the light and privileges which the church of God enjoys now. This apostacy will be most like the apostacy of the devils of any that ever had before been: for the devils apostatized, and turned enemies to Christ, though they enjoyed the light of heaven; and these will apostatize, and turn enemies to him, though they have enjoyed the light and privileges of the glorious times of the church. That such should turn open and avowed enemies to Christ, and should seek the ruin of his church, will cry aloud for such immediate vengeance as was executed on the devils when they fell.
wickedness of the world will remarkably call for Christ’s immediate
appearing in flaming fire to take vengeance on them, because of the way
in which they shall manifest their wickedness. This will be by scoffing
and blaspheming Christ and his holy religion; and particularly, they
will scoff at the notion of Christ’s coming to judgment, of which the
church shall be in expectation. For now doubtless will be the greatest
And the great number of the wicked is another thing which shall especially call for Christ’s coming: for the world then will doubtless be exceeding full of people, having continued so long in so great a state of prosperity, without such terrible desolating extremities, as wars, pestilences, and the like, to diminish them. And the major part of this world, which shall be so populous, will be wicked contemptuous apostates from God. Undoubtedly the world then will be by far fuller of wickedness than ever it was before, from its foundation. And if the wickedness of the old world, when men began to multiply on the earth, called for the destruction of the world by a deluge of water, this wickedness will as much call for its destruction by a deluge of fire.
Again, the circumstances of the church at that day will also eminently call for the immediate appearing of Christ, as they will be compassed about by their blasphemous murderous enemies, just ready to be swallowed up by them. And it will be a most distressing time with the church, excepting the comfort they will have in the hope of deliverance from God: for all other help will seem to fail. The case will be come to the last extremity, and there will be an immediate need that Christ should come to their deliverance. And though the church shall be so eminently threatened, yet so will Providence order it, that it shall be preserved till Christ shall appear in his immediate presence, coming in the glory of his Father with all his holy angels. And then will come the time when all the elect shall be gathered in. That work of conversion which has been carried on from the beginning of the church after the fall through all those ages, shall be carried on no more. There never shall another soul be converted. Every one of those many millions, whose names were written in the book of life before the foundation of the world, shall be brought in; not one soul shall be lost. And the mystical body of Christ, which has been growing since it first began in the days of Adam, will be complete as to the number of parts, having every one of its members. In this respect, the work of redemption will now be finished. And now the end for which the means of grace have been instituted shall be obtained.—All that effect which was intended, shall now be accomplished.
PART IX. The General Judgment612
THE GENERAL JUDGEMENT
Thus I have shown how the success of Christ’s redemption has been accomplished during the continuance of the christian church under the means of grace. We have seen what great revolutions there have been, and are to be, during this space of time; how the great wheels of Providence have gone round for the accomplishment of that kind of success of Christ’s purchase, which consists in the bestowment of grace on the elect. In the prosecution of the subject, we are come to the time when all the wheels have gone round; the course of things in this state of it is finished, and all things are ripe for Christ’s coming to judgment.
The success of Christ’s purchase is of two kinds, consisting either in grace or glory. The success consisting in the former of these, is to be seen in those works of God which are wrought during those ages that the church is continued under the means of grace; and the success, consisting in the latter, will chiefly be accomplished at the day of judgment. Having already shown how the former kind of success has been accomplished, I come now to the latter, viz. that kind of success which is accomplished in the bestowment of glory on the church at the day of judgment. And here I would mention two or three things in general, concerning this kind of success of Christ’s purchase.
1. How great
the success of Christ’s purchase is, appears chiefly in this very
thing. The success of Christ’s purchase summarily consists in the salvation of the elect. But this bestowment of glory is eminently called their salvation:
2. All that precedes this, while the church is under the means of grace, is only to make way for the success which is to be accomplished in the bestowment of glory. The means of grace, and God’s grace itself, is bestowed on the elect to make them meet for glory.
3. All those glorious things which were brought to pass for the church while under the means of grace, are but images and shadows of this. So were those glorious things which were accomplished for the church in the days of Constantine the Great; and so is all that glory which is to succeed the fall of Antichrist. However great, it is all but a shadow of what will be bestowed at the day of judgment. But I hasten more particularly to show how this kind of success will be accomplished.
will appear in the glory of his Father, with all his holy angels,
coming in the clouds of heaven. When the world is thus revelling in
their wickedness, and compassing the holy city, just ready to destroy
it, then shall the glorious Redeemer make his appearance. He through
whom this redemption has all along been carried on, shall appear in the
sight of the world; the light of his glory shall break forth; the whole
world shall immediately have notice of it, and
they shall lift up their eyes and behold this wonderful sight. Every eye shall see him, (
Men shall now lift up their eyes, and see him coming in such majesty and glory as now is to us utterly inconceivable. The glory of the sun in a clear firmament, will be but darkness in comparison of it; and all the glorious angels and archangels shall attend him; thousand thousands ministering to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand round about him. How different a person will he then appear from what he did at his first coming, when he was as a root out of a dry ground, a poor, despised, afflicted man! How different now is his appearance, in the midst of those glorious angels, principalities, and powers, in heavenly places, attending him as his ordinary servants, from what it was when in the midst of a ring of soldiers, with his mock robe and his crown of thorns, buffeted and spit upon, or hanging on the cross between two thieves, with a multitude of his enemies triumphing over him!
will be a most unexpected sight to the wicked world: it will come as a
cry at midnight: they shall be taken in the midst of their wickedness,
and it will give them a dreadful alarm. It will at once break up their
revels, their eating, and drinking, and carousing. It will put a quick
end to the design of. the great army that will then be compassing the
camp of the saints: it will make them let drop their weapons out of
their hands. The world, which will then be
very full of people, most of whom will be wicked men, will then be
filled with dolorous shrieking and crying; for all the kindreds of the
earth shall wail because of him, (
with respect to the saints, it shall be a joyful and most glorious
sight to them: for this sight will at once deliver them from all fear
of their enemies, who were before compassing them about, just ready to
swallow them up. Deliverance shall come in their extremity: the
glorious Captain of their salvation shall appear for them, at a time
when no other help appeared. Then shall they lift up their heads, and
their redemption shall be drawing nigh, (
The last trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised, and the
living changed. God sent forth his angels with a great sound of a
trumpet, to gather together his elect from the four corners of the
earth in a mystical sense, before the destruction of Jerusalem; i.e. he
sent forth the apostles, and others, to preach the gospel all over the
world. And so in a mystical sense the great trumpet was blown at the
beginning of the glorious times of the church. But now
the great trumpet is blown in a more literal sense, with a mighty sound
which shakes the earth. There will be a great signal given by a mighty
sound made, which is called the voice of the archangel, as being the angel of greatest strength,
And now all the inhabitants that ever shall have been upon the face of the earth, shall all appear upon earth at once. Among these will be Adam and Eve, the first parents of mankind, Abel, and Seth, and Methuselah, and all the saints who were their contemporaries; Noah and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the prophets of Israel and 613holy confessors. Among them will appear all the holy apostles of Jesus Christ, and all the saints of their times; all the holy martyrs who fell under furious persecutions. There will be found all who belonged to the church in its wilderness-state, during the dark times of Antichrist, and all who have suffered under his persecuting cruelty, with all the saints of past and the present time, and that shall be to the end of the world. Now also all the enemies of the church in all the ages shall appear again; all the wicked heathens, and Jews, and Mahometans, and papists. Sinners of all sorts; demure hypocrites, profane sensualists, heretics, deists, and all cruel persecutors, and all who shall have died in sin, shall come together.
at the same time that the dead are raised, the living shall be changed.
The bodies of the wicked who shall then be living, shall be so changed
as to fit them for eternal torment; and the bodies of all the living
saints shall be changed to be like unto Christ’s glorious body,
And now the work of redemption shall be finished in another respect, viz. that all the elect shall now be actually redeemed both in soul and body. Before this, the work of redemption, as to its actual success, was but incomplete; for only the souls of the redeemed were actually saved and glorified, excepting in some few instances: but now all the bodies of the saints shall be saved and glorified together; all the elect shall be glorified in the whole man, the soul and body in union.
Now shall the saints be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the
air, and all wicked men and devils shall be arraigned before the
judgment-seat. When the dead saints are raised, then the whole church,
consisting of all the elect through all ages, will stand together on
the earth, at least all excepting those few whose bodies were glorified
before; and then they shall all mount up as with wings to meet Christ.
It seems that Christ, when he comes to judgment,
will not come quite to the ground, but his throne will be fixed in the
airy region, whence he may be seen by all that vast multitude that
shall be gathered before him. The saints therefore shall ascend up to
their Saviour. Thus the apostle tells us, that when the dead in Christ
are raised, and the living changed, then those who are alive and
remain, shall be caught up together with them, to meet the Lord in the
air, and so shall we be ever with the Lord,
Then shall the work of redemption be finished in another respect: then shall the whole church be perfectly and for ever delivered from this present evil world; shall take their everlasting leave of this earth, where they have been strangers, and which has been for the most part a scene of trouble and sorrow: where the devil has reigned as god, and has greatly molested them, and which has been such a scene of wickedness and abomination, where Christ their Lord has been cruelly used; and where they have been so hated, reproached, and persecuted. They shall leave it, and shall never set foot on it again. And there shall be an everlasting separation made between them and wicked men. Before, they were mixed together, and it was impossible in many instances to determine their characters; but now all shall become visible; both saints and sinners shall appear in their true characters and forms. Then shall all the church be seen ascending to the right hand of Christ. What a mighty cloud of them will there be!
And then also the work of redemption will be finished in another respect, viz. that then the church shall all be gathered together. They all belonged to one society before, but yet were greatly separated with respect to the place of their habitation. Some were in heaven, and some on earth; and those who were on earth were separated, many of them by wide oceans, and vast continents. But now they shall all be gathered together, never to be separated any more. And not only shall all the members of the church now be gathered together, but all shall be gathered unto their Head, into his immediate glorious presence, never to be separated from him any more.
At the same time, all wicked men and devils shall be brought before the judgment-seat of Christ. These shall be gathered to the left hand of Christ, and, as it seems, will still remain upon the earth, and shall not be caught up into the air, as the saints shall be. The devil, that old serpent, shall now be dragged up out of hell. He, that first procured the fall and misery of mankind, and has so set himself against their redemption, and has all along shown himself such an inveterate enemy to the Redeemer, shall never more have any thing to do with the church of God, nor be suffered in the least to afflict or molest any member of it for ever. Instead of that, now he must be judged, and receive the due reward of his deeds. Now is come the time which he has always dreaded; the time wherein he must be judged, and receive his full punishment. He who by his temptation maliciously procured Christ’s crucifixion, and triumphed as though he had obtained the victory, even he shall see the consequences of that death which he procured. Now he must stand before that same Jesus, to be judged, condemned, and eternally destroyed by him. If Satan, the prince of hell, trembles at the thought of it thousands of years beforehand, how much more will he tremble, proud and stubborn as he is, when he comes to stand at Christ’s bar!
shall he also stand at the bar of the saints, whom he has so hated,
afflicted, and molested: for the saints shall judge him with Christ:
also shall all Christ’s other enemies be brought to appear before him.
Now shall proud scribes and Pharisees, who had such a malignant hatred
of Christ while in his state of humiliation, and who persecuted him to
death, be made to come. Now those before whose judgment-seat Christ
once stood, as a malefactor at their bar, and those who mocked him,
buffeted him, and spit in his face, shall see Christ in his awful
glory, as forewarned,
Now also all the cruel enemies and persecutors of the church that have been in all ages, shall come in sight together. Pharaoh and the Egyptians, Antiochus Epiphanes, the malignant scribes and Pharisees, the persecuting heathen emperors, Julian the apostate, the cruel persecuting popes and papists, Gog and Magog, shall all appear at once before the judgment-seat of Christ. They and the saints who have in every age been persecuted by them, shall come in sight, and must now confront one another before the great Judge. And now shall the saints on their glorious thrones be made the judges of those unjust kings and rulers who before judged and condemned them, and put them to cruel death. Now shall those persecutors behold the glory to which they are arrived, whom they before so cruelly despised, and so cruelly treated. Thus wonderfully will the face of things be altered; now will all things be coming to rights.
IV. The righteousness of the church shall be manifested, and all the wickedness of their enemies shall be brought to light. Those saints who had been the objects of hatred, reproach, and contempt in the world; reviled and condemned - 614by their persecutors without a cause, shall now be fully vindicated. They shall now appear clothed with the glorious robe of Christ’s righteousness. It shall be most manifest before the world, that Christ’s righteousness is theirs, and they shall gloriously shine forth in it. Then shall their inherent holiness be made manifest, and all their good works be brought to light. The good things which they did in secret shall now be manifested openly. Those holy ones of God, who had been treated as the filth and offscouring of the earth, as if not fit to live, as worse than beasts or devils, shall now appear to have been the excellent of the earth. Now God will bring forth their righteousness as the light, and their judgment as the noon-day. And now it shall appear who indeed were those wicked persons that were not fit to live; when all the wickedness of the enemies of Christ and his church, their pride, their malice, their cruelty, their hatred of true religion, shall be set forth in all its horrid acts, in its proper colours.
And now the righteous may be heard before this great Judge, who could not be heard before those unjust judges. Now they shall declare their cause, and rise up in judgment against their persecutors, and shall declare how they had been treated by them. And now all the wickedness of the wicked shall be brought to light; even all their secret wickedness, and their very hearts shall be opened to view, and as it were turned inside out, before the bright light of that great day. Things which have been spoken in the ear, in the closet, and done in the dark, shall be manifested in the light, and proclaimed before angels and men.
V. The sentence shall be pronounced on the righteous and the wicked. Christ, the glorious Judge, shall pass that blessed sentence on the church at his right hand, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. “ This sentence shall be pronounced with infinite love, and the voice will cause every heart to flow with joy. Thus Christ shall pronounce a sentence of justification on millions, who before had a sentence of condemnation passed upon them by their persecuting rulers. He will thus put honour upon those who have been before despised: he will own them for his, and will put a crown of glory upon their heads before the world; and then shall they shine forth as the sun with Jesus Christ in glory and joy, in the sight of all their enemies.
And then shall the sentence of condemnation be passed on the wicked, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. “ Thus shall the church’s enemies be condemned; in which sentence of condemnation, the holy martyrs, who have suffered from them, shall concur. When the words of this sentence are pronounced, they will strike every heart of those at the left hand with inconceivable horror and amazement. Every syllable of it will be more terrible than a stream of lightning through their hearts. What horrible shrieking, quaking, gnashing of teeth, distortions of countenance, hideous looks, hideous actions, and hideous voices, will be seen through all that vast throng!
VI. Upon this, Christ and all his saints, and all the holy angels ministering to them, shall leave this lower world, and ascend towards the highest heavens. Christ shall ascend in as great glory as he descended, and in some respects greater: for now he shall ascend with his elect church with him, glorified in body and soul. Christ’s first ascension to heaven soon after his own resurrection was very glorious. But this his second ascension, with his mystical body, his whole church, shall be far more glorious. The redeemed church shall all ascend with him in a most joyful and triumphant manner: and all their enemies and persecutors, who shall be left behind to be consumed, shall see the sight, and hear their songs. And thus Christ’s church shall for ever leave this accursed world, to go into the highest heavens, the paradise of God, the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.
When they are gone, this world shall be set on fire, and be turned into
a great furnace, wherein all the enemies of Christ and his church shall
be tormented for ever and ever. This is manifest by
here shall all the persecutors of the church of God burn in everlasting
fire, who had before burnt the saints at the stake; and shall suffer
torments far beyond all that their utmost wit and malice could inflict
on the saints. And here the bodies of all the wicked shall burn, and be
tormented to all eternity, and never be consumed; and the wrath of God
shall be poured out on their souls. Though the souls of the wicked in
hell do now suffer dreadful punishment, yet
their punishment will be so increased at the day of judgment, that what
they suffered before, is, in comparison of it, as an imprisonment to
the execution which follows it. And now the devil, that old serpent,
shall receive his full punishment; now that for fear of which he before
trembled, shall fully come upon him. This world, which formerly used to
be the place of his kingdom, where he set up himself as God, shall now
be the place of his complete punishment, of full and everlasting
torment.—And in this, one design of the work of redemption, viz.
putting Christ’s enemies under his feet, shall be perfectly
accomplished. His enemies shall now be made his footstool, in the
fullest degree. Now shall be the most perfect fulfilment of
VIII. At the same time, all the church shall enter with Christ, their glorious Lord, into the highest heavens, and there shall enter on the state of their highest and eternal blessedness and glory. While the lower world, which they have left under their feet, is seized with the fire of God’s vengeance, and flames are kindling upon it, and the wicked are entering into everlasting fire, the whole church shall enter, with their glorious Head, and all the holy angels attending, in a joyful manner, into the eternal paradise of God, the palace of the great Jehovah, their heavenly Father. The gates shall open wide for them to enter, and there Christ will bring them into his chambers in the highest sense. Here Christ will bring them, and present them in glory to his Father, saying, ” Here am I, and the children which thou hast given me;” as much as to say, Here am I, with every one of those whom thou gavest me from eternity to take the care of, that they might be redeemed and glorified, and to redeem whom I have done and suffered so much, and to make way for whose redemption I have for so many ages been accomplishing such great changes. Here they are now perfectly redeemed in body and soul; I have delivered them from all the ill fruits of the fall, and freed them from all their enemies; I have brought them all together into one glorious society, and united them all in myself; I have openly justified them before all angels and men, and here I have brought them all away from that accursed world where they have suffered so much, and have brought them before thy throne: I have done all that for them which thou hast appointed me: I have perfectly cleansed them in my blood, and here they are in perfect holiness, shining with thy perfect image. 615
And then the Father will accept of them, own them all for his children, and welcome them to the eternal and perfect inheritance and glory of his house, and will on this occasion give more glorious manifestations of his love than ever before, and will admit them to a more full and perfect enjoyment of himself.
How shall be the
marriage of the Lamb in the most perfect sense. The commencement of the
glorious times of the church on earth, after the fall of Antichrist, is
represented as the marriage of the Lamb; but after this we read of
another marriage of the Lamb, at the close of the day of
judgment.—After the beloved disciple had given an account of the day of
bridegroom and the bride shall then enter into heaven, both having on
their wedding-robes, attended with all the glorious angels. And there
they enter on the feast and joys of their marriage before the Father;
they shall then begin an everlasting wedding-day. This shall be the day
of the gladness of Christ’s heart, wherein he will greatly rejoice, and
all the saints shall rejoice with him. Christ shall rejoice over his
bride, and the bride shall rejoice in her
husband, in the state of her consummate and everlasting blessedness, of
which we have a particular description in the
And now the whole work of redemption is finished. Now the top-stone of the building is laid. In the progress of our discourse, we have followed the church of God in all her great changes, all her tossings to and fro, all her storms and tempests through the many ages of the world. We have seen her enter the harbour, and landed in the highest heavens, in complete and eternal glory. We have gone through the several ages of time, as the providence and word of God have led us. We have seen all the church’s enemies fixed in endless misery, and have seen the church presented in her perfect redemption before her Father in heaven, there to enjoy this most unspeakable and inconceivable glory and blessedness; and there we leave her to enjoy this glory throughout the never-ending ages of eternity.
Now all Christ’s enemies will be perfectly put under his feet, and he shall have his most perfect triumph over sin and Satan, and all his instruments, and death, and hell. Now shall all the promises made to Christ by God the Father before the foundation of the world, the promises of the covenant of redemption, be fully accomplished. Christ shall now perfectly have obtained the joy set before him, for which he undertook those great sufferings in his state of humiliation. Now shall all the hopes and expectations of the saints be fulfilled. The state of the church before, was progressive and preparatory: but now she is arrived to her most perfect state of glory. All the glory of the church on earth, is but a faint shadow of this her consummate glory in heaven.
Christ the great Redeemer shall be most perfectly glorified, God the
Father shall be glorified in him, and the Holy Ghost shall be most
fully glorified in the perfection of his work on the hearts of all the
church.—And now shall that new heaven and new earth, or the renewed
state of things, be completely finished, after the material frame of
the old heavens and old earth is destroyed:
How are all the
former things passed away, and what a glorious state are things fixed
in to remain to all eternity! —And as Christ, when he first entered
upon the work of redemption, had the kingdom committed to him of the
Father, and as he took on himself the administration of the affairs of
the universe, to manage all so as to subserve the purposes of this
affair; so now, the work being finished, he will deliver up the kingdom
to God even the Father,
PART X. Improvement of the Whole.
IMPROVEMENT OF THE WHOLE
I proceed now to enter upon some improvement of the whole that has been said from this doctrine.
I. Hence we may learn how great a work is this of redemption. We have now had it, though in a very imperfect manner, set forth, in its whole progress, from its first beginning after the fall, to its consummation. We have seen how God has carried on this building, by a long succession of wonderful works, advancing it higher and higher from one age to another, till the top-stone is laid. And now let us consider how great a work this is. Do men, when they behold some great edifices, admire their magnificence; how well may we admire the greatness of this building of God, which he builds up age after age! There are three things exhibited to us in what has been said, which especially show the greatness of the work of redemption.
1. The greatness of those particular events, and dispensations of Providence, by which it is accomplished. How great are those things which God has done, which are but so many parts of this great work! What great things were done in the world to prepare the way for Christ’s coming to purchase, and what great things were done in the actual purchase of redemption! What a wonderful thing was accomplished to put Christ in an immediate capacity for this purchase, viz. his incarnation, that God should become man! And what great things were done in that purchase, that a person, who is the eternal Jehovah, should live upon earth for four or five and thirty years together, in a mean, despised condition, that he should spend his life in such labours and sufferings, and that at last he should die upon the cross! And what great things have been done to accomplish the success of Christ’s redemption! what great things to put him into a capacity to accomplish this success! For this purpose he rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and all things were made subject to him. How many miracles have been wrought, what mighty revolutions have been brought to pass in the world already, and how much greater shall be brought to pass, in order to it!
2. The number of those great events by which God carries on this work, shows the greatness of the work. Those mighty revolutions are so many as to fill up many ages. The particular wonderful events by which the work of creation was carried on filled up six days; but the great dispensations by which the work of redemption is 616carried on, are so many, that they fill up six or seven thousand years at least, as we have reason to conclude from the word of God.—There were great things wrought in this affair before the flood, and in the flood the world was once destroyed by water, and God’s church was so wonderfully preserved from it in order to carry on this work. And after the flood, what great things did God work relating to the resettling of the world, to the building of Babel, the dispersing of the nations, the shortening of the days of man’s life, the calling of Abraham, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and that long series of wonderful providences relating to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph; and those wonders in Egypt, and at the Red sea, in the wilderness, and in Canaan in Joshua’s time, and by a long succession of wonderful providences from age to age towards the nation of the Jews.
What great things were wrought by God, in so often overturning the world before Christ came, to make way for his coming ! What great things were done also in Christ’s time, and after that, in overturning Satan’s kingdom in the heathen empire, and in so preserving his church in the dark times of popery, and in bringing about the Reformation!—How many great and wonderful things will be effected in accomplishing the glorious times of the church, and at Christ’s last coming on the day of judgment, in the destruction of the world, and in carrying the whole church into heaven!
3. The glorious issue of this whole affair, in the perfect and eternal destruction of the wicked, and in the consummate glory of the righteous. And now let us once more take a view of this building, now all is finished and the top-stone laid. It appeared in a glorious height in the apostle’s time, and much more glorious in the time of Constantine, and will appear much more glorious still after the fall of Antichrist; but at the consummation of all things, it appears in an immensely more glorious height than ever before. Now it appears in its greatest magnificence, as a complete lofty structure, whose top reaches to the heaven of heavens; a building worthy of the great God, the King of kings.
And from what has been said, one may argue, that the work of redemption is the greatest of all God’s works of which we have any notice, and it is the end of all his other works.—It appears plainly from what has been said, that this is the principal of all God’s works of providence, and that all are subordinate to the great affair of redemption. We see that all the revolutions in the world are to subserve this grand design. This shows how much greater the work of redemption is, than the work of creation: because it is the end of it; as the use of a house is the end of the building it. But the work of redemption, is the sum of all God’s works of providence: all are subordinate to it: so the work of the new creation is more excellent than the old. So it ever is, that when one thing is removed by God to make way for another, the new one excels the old. Thus the temple excelled the tabernacle; the new covenant the old; the new dispensation of the gospel the dispensation of Moses; the throne of David the throne of Saul; the priesthood of Christ the priesthood of Aaron; the new Jerusalem the old; and so the new creation far excels the old.
God has used the creation for no other purpose, but to subserve the designs of this affair. To answer this end, he hath created and disposed of mankind, to this the angels, to this the earth, to this the highest heavens. God created the world to provide a spouse and a kingdom for his Son: and the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, and the spiritual marriage of the spouse to him, is what the whole creation labours and travails in pain to bring to pass. This work of redemption is so much the greatest of all the works of God, that all other works are to be looked upon either as parts of it, or appendages to it, or are some way reducible to it; and so all the decrees of God some way or other belong to that eternal covenant of redemption which was between the Father and the Son before the foundation of the world. Every decree of God is some way or other reducible to that covenant. And seeing this work of redemption is so great, we need not wonder that the angels desire to look into it. And we need not wonder that so much is made of it in Scripture, that it is so much insisted on in the histories, and prophecies, and songs of the Bible; for the work of redemption is the great subject of the whole, its doctrines, its promises, its types, its songs, its histories, and its prophecies.
Hence we may learn how God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and
ending of all things. Such are the characters and titles we find often
ascribed to him in Scripture.
have seen on what design God began the course of his providence in the
beginning of the generations of men; and how he has all along carried
things on agreeably to the same design without ever failing; and how at
last the conclusion and final issue of things are to God; and therefore
may well now cry out with the apostle,
have seen how other things came to an end one after another; how states
and kingdoms, and empires, fell, and came to nothing, even the greatest
and strongest of them; we have seen how the world has been often
overturned, and will be more remarkably yet; we have seen how it was
first destroyed by water, and how at last it shall be utterly destroyed
by fire: but yet God remains the same through all ages. He was before
the beginning of this course of things, and he
will be after the end of them; (
We have seen, in a variety of instances, how all other gods perish. Those in the nations about Canaan, and throughout the Roman empire, are all destroyed, and their worship long since overthrown. We have heard how Antichrist, who has called himself a god on earth; how Mahomet, who claims religious honours; how all the gods of the heathen through the world, will come to an end; and how Satan, the great dragon, that old serpent, who has set up himself as god of this world, will be cast into the lake of fire, there to suffer his complete punishment: but Jehovah remains, his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and of his dominion there is no end. We have seen what mighty changes there have been in the world; but God is unchangeable, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
We began at the head of the stream of divine providence, and have traced it through its various windings, till we are come to the end where it issues. As it began in God, so it ends in him. God is the infinite ocean into which it empties itself.—Providence is like a mighty wheel, whose circumference is so high that it is dreadful, with the glory of the God of Israel above upon it; as it is represented in Ezekiel’s vision. We have seen the revolution of this wheel, and how as it was from God, its return has been to God again. All the events of divine providence are like the links of a chain; the first link is from God, and the last is to him.
III. We may see by what has been said, how Christ has in all things the pre-eminence. For he is the great
Redeemer; and therefore the work of redemption being the sum of God’s
works of providence, shows the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, as being
above all, and through all, and in all. That God intended the world for
his Son’s use in the affair of redemption is one reason why he created
the world by him,
We see, that whatever changes there are, and however highly Christ’s enemies exalt themselves, yet he reigns in uncontrolled power and immense glory: in the end, his people are all perfectly saved and made happy, and all his enemies become his footstool. And thus God gives the world to his Son for his inheritance.
IV. The consideration of what has been said, may greatly serve to show us the consistency, order, and beauty, of God’s works of providence. If we behold events in any other view, all will look like confusion, like the tossing of waves; things will look as though one confused revolution came to pass after another, merely by blind chance, without any regular or certain end. But if we consider the events of providence in the light in which they have been set before us, and in which the Scriptures set them before us, they appear an orderly series of events, all wisely directed in excellent harmony and consistence, tending all to one end. The wheels of providence are not turned round by blind chance, but are full of eyes round about, (as Ezekiel represents them,) and are guided by the Spirit of God: where the Spirit goes, they go. All God’s works of providence, through all ages, meet at last, as so many lines meeting in one centre.
God’s work of providence, like that of creation, is but one. The events of providence are not so many distinct, independent works; but rather so many different parts of one work, one regular scheme. They are all united, just as the several parts of one building: there are many stones, many pieces of timber, but all are so joined, and fitly formed together, that they make but one building; they have all but one foundation, and are united at last in one top-stone.
God’s providence may not unfitly be compared to a large and long river, having innumerable branches, beginning in different regions, and at a great distance one from another, and all conspiring to one common issue. After their very diverse and apparent contrary courses, they all collect together, the nearer they come to their common end, and at length discharge themselves at one mouth into the same ocean. The different streams of this river are apt to appear like mere confusion to us, because of our limited sight, whereby we cannot see the whole at once. A man who sees but one or two streams at a time, cannot tell what their course tends to. Their course seems very crooked, and different streams seem to run for a while different and contrary ways: and if we view things at a distance, there seem to be innumerable obstacles and impediments in the way, as rocks and mountains, and the like; to hinder their ever uniting, and coming to the ocean; but yet if we trace them, they all unite at last, all come to the same issue, disgorging themselves in one into the same great ocean. Not one of all the streams fail.
V. From the whole that has been said, we may strongly argue, that the Scriptures are the word of God, because they alone inform us what God aims at, in his works. God doubtless is pursuing some design, and carrying on some scheme, in the various changes and revolutions which from age to age came to pass in the world. It is most reasonable to suppose, that there is some certain great design to which Providence subordinates all great successive changes in affairs. It is reasonable to suppose, that all revolutions, from the beginning of the world to the end of it, are but the various parts of the same scheme, all conspiring to bring to pass that great event which the great Creator and Governor of the world has ultimately in view; and that the scheme will not be finished, nor the design fully accomplished, and the great and ultimate event fully brought to pass, till the end of the world, and the last revolution is brought about.
there is nothing else that informs us what this scheme and design of
God in his works is, but the Holy Scriptures. Nothing else pretends to
set in view the whole series of God’s works of providence from
beginning to end, and to inform us how all things were from God at
first, for what end they are, how they were ordered from the beginning,
how they will proceed to the end of the world, what they will come to
at last, and how then all things shall be to God. Nothing
else but the Scriptures has any pretence for showing any manner of
regular scheme or drift in those revolutions which God orders from age
to age. Nothing else pretends to show what God would effect by the
things which he has done, is doing, and will do; what he seeks and
intends by them. Nothing else pretends to show, with any distinctness
or certainty, how the world began, or to tell us the true original of
things. Nothing but the Scriptures set forth how God governed the world
beginning of the generations of men upon the earth, in an orderly
history; and nothing else sets before us how he will govern it to the
end, by an orderly prophecy of future events; agreeable to the
challenge which God makes to the gods, and prophets, and teachers of
the heathen, in
Reason shows, that it is fit and requisite, that the intelligent and rational beings of the world should know something of God’s scheme and design in his works: for they doubtless are principally concerned. God’s great design in his works, is doubtless concerning his reasonable creatures, rather than brute beasts and lifeless things. The revolutions by which God’s great design is brought to pass, are doubtless chiefly among them, and concern their state, and not the state of things without life or reason. And therefore surely it is requisite, that they should know something of it; especially since reason teaches, that God has given his rational creatures a capacity of seeing him in his works; for this end, that they may see God’s glory in them, and give him that glory. But how can they see God’s glory in his works, if they do not know what his design in them is, and what he aims at by what he is doing in the world?
Further, it is fit that mankind should be somewhat informed of God’s design in the government of the world, because they are made capable of actively falling in with that design, of promoting it, and acting herein as his friends and subjects. It is therefore reasonable to suppose, that God has given mankind some revelation to inform them of this: but there is nothing else that does it but the Bible. In the Bible this is done. Here we may learn the first original of things, and have an orderly account of the scheme of God’s works from the beginning, through those ages that are beyond the reach of all other histories. Here we are told what God aims at in the whole, what is the great end, how he has contrived the grand design, and the great things he would accomplish. Here we have a most rational excellent account of this matter, worthy of God, and exceedingly showing forth the glory of his perfections, his majesty, his wisdom, his glorious holiness, grace, and love; and his exaltation above all, as the first and the last.
Here we are shown the various parts of the work of providence, and how all are connected together in a regular, beautiful, and glorious frame. In the Bible, we have an account of the whole scheme of providence, from the beginning of the world to the end of it, either in history or prophecy, and are told what will become of things at last; how they will issue in the subduing of God’s enemies, and in the salvation and glory of his church, and setting up of the everlasting kingdom of his Son.
How rational, worthy, and excellent a revelation is this! and how excellent a book is the Bible, which contains so 618 much beyond all other books in the world! and what characters are here of its being indeed a divine book! a book that the great Jehovah has given to mankind for their instruction, without which we should be left in miserable darkness and confusion.
VI. From what has been said, we may see the glorious majesty and power of God in this affair of redemption. His glorious power appears in upholding his church for so long a time, and carrying on this work; upholding it oftentimes when it was but as a little spark, or as smoking flax, in which the fire was almost extinct, and the powers of earth and hell combined to destroy it. Yet God has never suffered them to quench it, and finally will bring forth judgment unto victory. God glorifies his strength in his church’s weakness; in causing his people, who are like a number of little infants, finally to triumph over all earth and hell; so that they shall tread on the lion and adder; the young lion and dragon shall they trample under foot. The glorious power of God appears in conquering his many and mighty enemies by that person who was once an infant in a manger, and appeared as a poor, weak, despised man. He conquers them, and triumphs over them in their own weapon, the cross.
The glorious majesty of God appears in conquering all those mighty enemies of the church one age after another; in conquering Satan, that proud and strong spirit, and all his hellish host; in bringing him down under foot, long after he had vaunted himself as god of this world, and when he did his utmost to support himself in his kingdom. Christ, our Michael, has overcome him, the devil was cast out, and there was found no more place for him in heaven; but he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. He is conquered in that kingdom wherein his pride, and subtlety, and cruelly, above all appears, viz. the kingdom of Antichrist. And the glorious power of God appears in thus conquering the devil, and bringing him under foot, after long time given him to strengthen himself to his utmost. He was once overthrown in his heathen Roman empire, after he had been making himself strong in those parts of the world, ever since the building of Babel. It appears also in overthrowing his kingdom more fatally and universally all over the world, after he had another opportunity to strengthen himself to his utmost for many ages, by setting up those two great kingdoms of Antichrist and Mahomet, and to establish his interest in the heathen world. We have seen how these kingdoms of God’s enemies look strong, as though it was impossible to overthrow them; yet, when God appears, they seem to melt away, as the fat of lambs before the fire, and are driven away as the chaff before the whirlwind.
mighty kingdoms of Antichrist and Mahomet, which have made such a
figure for so many ages, and have trampled the world under foot, when
God comes to appear, will vanish away like a shadow, and will disappear
of themselves, as the darkness in a room does, when the light is
brought in. What are God’s enemies in his hands? How is their greatest
strength weakness when he rises up! and how weak will they all appear
together at the day of judgment! Thus we may apply
those words in the song of Moses,
VII. From what has been said, we may see the glorious wisdom of God. It shows the wisdom of God in creating the world, in that he has created it for such an excellent use, to accomplish in it so glorious a work. And it shows the wisdom of Divine Providence, that he brings such great good out of such great evil, in making the fall and ruin of mankind, which in itself is so sorrowful and deplorable, an occasion of accomplishing such a glorious work as redemption, and of erecting such a glorious building, whose top should reach unto heaven, and of bringing his elect to a state of such unspeakable happiness. And how glorious doth the wisdom of God appear in that long course and series of great changes in the world, in bringing such order out of confusion, in so frustrating the most subtle machinations, and in causing the greatest works of Satan, those in which he has most glorified himself, to be wholly turned into occasions of so much the more glorious triumph of his Son Jesus Christ! And how wonderful is the wisdom of God, in bringing all such manifold and various changes and overturnings in the world to such a glorious period at last, and in so directing all the wheels of Providence by his skilful hand, that every one of them conspires, as the manifold wheels of a most curious machine, at last to strike out such an excellent issue, such a manifestation of the divine glory, such happiness to his people, and such a glorious and everlasting kingdom to his Son!
VIII. From what has been said, we may see the stability of God’s mercy and faithfulness
to his people; how he never forsakes his inheritance, and remembers his
covenant to them through all generations. Now we may see what reason
there was for the words of the text, “The moth shall eat them up like a
garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool; but my righteousness
shall endure for ever and ever, and my salvation from generation to
generation.” And now
we may see abundant reason for that name of God which he reveals to
And now we may see the truth of
IX. Hence we may learn how happy a society the church of Christ is. For all this great work is for them. Christ undertook it for their sakes, and for their sakes he carries it on; it is because he has loved them with an everlasting love. For their sakes he overturns states and kingdoms. For their sakes he shakes heaven and earth. He gives men for them, and people for their life. Since they have been precious in God s sight, they have been honourable; and therefore he first gives the blood of his own Son, and then gives the blood of all their enemies, many thousands and millions, all nations that stand in their way, as a sacrifice to their good.
their sakes he made the world, and for their sakes he will destroy it;
for their sakes he built heaven, and for their sakes he makes his
angels ministering spirits. Therefore the apostle says,
Let who will prevail now, let the enemies of the church exalt themselves as much as they will, these are the people that shall finally prevail. The last kingdom shall finally be theirs; the kingdom shall finally be given into their hands, and shall not be left to other people. We have seen to what a blessed issue things shall finally be brought, and what glory they shall arrive at, and remain in possession 619of, after all the kingdoms of the world are come to an end, and the earth is removed, and mountains are carried into the depth of the sea, or where the sea was, and this lower earth shall all be dissolved. O happy people, and blessed society! Well may they spend an eternity in praises and hallelujahs to him who hath loved them, and will love them to eternity.
X. And, lastly, hence all wicked men, all that are in a Christless condition, may see their exceeding misery.
You that are such, whoever you are, shall have no part or lot in this
matter. You are never the better for any of these things: yea, your
guilt is but so much the greater, and the misery you are exposed to so
much the more dreadful. You are some of those against whom God, in the
progress of the work, exercises so much manifest wrath; some of those
enemies who are liable to be made Christ’s footstool, to be ruled with
a rod of iron, and to be dashed in pieces. You are some of the seed of
the serpent, to bruise the head of which is one great design of all
this work. Whatever glorious things God accomplishes for his church,
they will not be glorious to you. The most glorious times of the church
are always the most dismal to the wicked and impenitent. (
I might observe the same concerning the glory accomplished to the church in the days of Constantine, at the overthrow of Satan’s visible kingdom in the downfall of Antichrist, and at the day of judgment. In all these instances, and especially in the last, there have been, or will be, exhibited most awful tokens of the divine wrath against the wicked.
God will indeed make use of you in this affair; but it will be for the glory of his justice, and not of his mercy. The enemies of God are reserved for the triumph of Christ’s glorious power in overcoming and punishing them. You are some of those who shall be consumed with this accursed world after the day of judgment, when Christ and his church shall triumphantly and gloriously ascend to heaven. Therefore let all who are in a Christless condition seriously consider these things, and not be like the foolish people of the old world, who would not take warning, when Noah told them, that the Lord was about to bring a flood of waters upon the earth; or like the people of Sodom, who would not regard, when Lot told them, that God would destroy that city, and would not flee from the wrath to come, and so were consumed in that terrible destruction.
And now I would say, to conclude my whole discourse on this subject, “These sayings are faithful and true, and blessed is he that keepeth these sayings. Behold Christ cometh quickly, and his reward is with him, to render to every man according as his work shall be. And he that is unjust, shall be unjust still; and he that is filthy, shall be filthy still; and he that is holy, shall be holy still. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city: for without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. He that testifieth these things, saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus.