« PreviousContinue »
when whole nations, yea, all the world, become true penitents, and they see and know this, and what is implied in it, unspeakably to better advantage, and more clearly than any can do who shall be then on earth!
The more Christians labor and suffer on earth in the cause of Christ, and the more they desire, pray for, and promote his coming and kingdom in this world, the more they will enjoy it in heaven when it shall take place, and the greater will be their joy and happiness. And it will be unspeakably more and greater in heaven than if they were in bodies on earth. Who, then, can reasonably desire to live in this world merely to see and enjoy the happy day of the millennium?
On the whole, it is hoped that it does appear from what has been said in this dissertation, that there will be a thousand years of prosperity of the church of Christ in this world; that this is abundantly foretold and held up to view in the Bible; that this will be about the seventh millenary of the world; that it will be a most happy and glorious day, in which the Christian dispensation shall have its proper and full effect on earth, in the salvation of men, to which all the preceding times and events are preparatory; that the degeneracy and increasing prevalence of ignorance, error, and wickedness now in the world, especially in Christendom, is preparing for and hastening on the battle of that great day of God Almighty, in which mankind will be punished, and the greatest part then on earth destroyed, and then the millennium will be introduced; that this is an important and pleasing subject, suited to support and comfort Christians in all the dark and evil days which precede it, and to excite them to earnest, constant, united prayer for this coming of Christ, and patient waiting for him, and to constant exertions in all proper ways, to promote his interest and kingdom in the world.
After the thousand years of the reign of Christ and his church on earth, "Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city; and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." (Rev. xx. 7-9.) In these words there is reference to what is said of Gog and Magog, in the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of Ezekiel, which prophecy there is reason to think is not to be understood literally, but in a figurative sense; as no events have ever taken place answerable to this representation, if
taken in a literal sense. The prophecy of Gog and Magog may be considered as having reference to two events which are to take place at different times, and are similar in some respects, and differ in others, viz., the great and general corruption and wickedness of mankind, and their punishment and destruction, which will precede the millennium which has been described in this section; and the apostasy and wickedness of mankind at the end of the millennium, and the remarkable overthrow and destruction of them when Christ shall come to judgment, predicted in the words which have been now transcribed. Some things said of Gog and Magog, of their designs, doings, and their punishment, and a number of expressions in that prophecy, are more applicable to the former of these events than to the latter, and some more applicable to the latter than to the former, and the whole cannot be well applied to one, exclusive of the other; but in both the prophecy is completely fulfilled. Both these events respect wicked men, who have arrived to a great degree of obstinacy and wickedness; and they are both gathered together by the agency and deception of Satan, let loose for that end; and they are both gathered together to battle against Christ and his church, and are destroyed in the battle.
This prophecy is figurative. It is not to be supposed that all this great multitude will be gathered together into one place, or that the church will be encamped together in one spot on earth, or collected in one city; but the gathering of the wicked means their being abandoned to infidelity and a very great degree of wickedness, in opposition to the church of Christ and true religion, and being disposed to extirpate these from the face of the earth. In this sense, the wicked will be gathered together to battle before the millennium, by the spirits of devils, or Satan, who will go forth to the whole world for that end, as has been explained. The church will become small, and surrounded and assaulted by the wicked on every side, and ready to be swallowed up, and totally destroyed by them.
It has been a question from whence this multitude of people here called Gog and Magog should come, after the church of Christ and true religion had prevailed in the world a thousand years. Some have supposed that a number of people, and perhaps whole nations, would live in some corner of the earth, during the time of the millennium, without partaking of any of the blessings of it; but will continue in a state of heathenism and wickedness all that time, till at length they will multiply so much as to be able to rise in opposition to the church, and destroy it, were they not prevented by the miraculous interposition of Heaven. And many have supposed that this
fact is inconsistent with all the inhabitants of the world being real Christians and eminently holy in the time of the millennium. But this supposed difficulty may be easily solved, and the general and great apostasy accounted for, consistent with the supposition that in the millennium all mankind will be real Christians. Near the end of the thousand years, the divine influences which produced and continued the universal and eminent holiness in the millennium may be in such a measure withheld, as that real Christians will, in their exercises and conduct, sink much below what had taken place before, and indulge a careless and worldly spirit to a great and sinful degree, and become more and more negligent of their duty, especially with respect to their children, and be really guilty of breaking covenant with God in this important point. In consequence of this, their children will not be regenerated and converted, but grow up in a state of sin, real enemies to God and to the truth. And as the world will be then full of people, it will in this way soon become full of wicked men, and the church will be very small. And those who will grow up under the power of sin and Satan, in the face of all that light, truth, and holiness which had taken place through the millennium, and in opposition to it, will naturally arrive to a great and amazing degree of hardness and obstinacy in sin, and become a far more guilty and perverse generation of men than ever existed before, and will be greater enemies to truth and righteousness and the church of Christ; and, consequently, will be united and engaged to banish all these from the earth. The world will have more wicked persons in it than ever before, and all these much more sinful, and engaged in all kinds and ways of opposition to Christ and his cause and people. The church will be on the brink of ruin, just ready to sink and be swallowed up, and the appearance and coming of Christ will be less believed, expected, or thought of than at any other time. Then Christ will be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them who know not God and obey not the gospel.
This apostasy and great wickedness of so many millions of mankind, the number of whom will be as the sand of the sea, and their consequent misery, is an awful dispensation indeed, and is, in itself, an evil infinitely beyond the comprehension of man. But there is the clearest evidence and the greatest certainty that this instance of evil, as well as all other evil which precedes it, and will succeed it, though it will be endless, will, by the overruling hand of God, be productive of overbalancing good, and is necessary in order to effect the greatest possible good to the universe. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou
restrain." (Ps. lxxvi. 10.) This event will serve to set the total depravity and the strong propensity of man to the greatest degree of wickedness in a more clear and striking light than it had been or perhaps could be before. That man should apostatize, and so soon arrive to such a high degree of wickedness, after all the light and holiness, and the wonderful goodness of God to man, displayed in the millennium, and in opposition to all this light and grace, and in the greatest abuse of it, join in rebellion against God, and trample on his authority, truth, and goodness, contrary to the admonitions and warnings from the Word of God; and all faithful ministers and Christians will make a new discovery, and greater than was ever made before, of fallen human nature, and of the great and desperate evil that is in the heart of man, and that it is utterly incurable by any means that can possibly be used, short of the almighty energy of the Spirit of God, by which the heart is renewed, and consequently of the guilt and infinite ill desert of man; which discovery will be of great advantage to the church and kingdom of Christ forever, and necessary for the greatest happiness and glory of it, and the highest honor of the Redeemer.
And this will make from fact a new and greater discovery of the absolute dependence of man on the grace and Spirit of God, to prevent his greatest wickedness and endless destruc tion, and to form him to holiness and happiness; and of the great and sovereign grace of God in converting and saving lost man, and in bringing on such a wonderful degree of holiness and happiness, and continuing it a thousand years; and that this is all to be ascribed to the sovereign power and grace of God, who has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. When all men shall be righteous and holy from generation to generation for a thousand years, and all the children which shall be born in that time shall appear to be pious and holy as soon as they begin to act, and persevere in this to the end of life, the appearance will be, that mankind are now grown better, and that the evil na ture of man is not so great, but he is naturally inclined to obedience and holiness. The sudden and great apostasy which will take place will take off this appearance, and show that the heart of man is naturally as full of evil as ever it was, and that all the good and holiness of the millennial state was the effect of the power of the Spirit of God, and to be wholly ascribed to the infinite, sovereign grace of God; and this dis covery will be remembered by the redeemed forever, and improved to the glory of God, to the praise of rich, sovereign grace, and consequently to their own eternal advantage.
"Even so, come, Lord Jesus." AMEN.