« PreviousContinue »
come to pass in his church to the end of time ; and he was the person that put the finishing hand to the canon of the scriptures, 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 things are established and completed which relate to the appointed means of grace. 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.
SII. The other thing proposed, relating to the success of Christ's redemption during the church's continuance under means of grace, was to show how this success was carried on; which is what I would now proceed to do.
And here it is worthy to be remembered, that the Christian church, during its continuance under means of grace, is in
different states. 1. In a suffering, afflicted, persecuted state ; as, for the most part it is, from the resurrection of Christ till the fall of Antichrist.
2. In a state of peace and prosperity ; which is the state that the church, for the most part, is to be in after the fall of Antichrist.
First, I would show how the success of Christ's redemp. tion is carried on during the continuance of the church's suffering state, from the resurrection of Christ to the fall of Antichrist. This
of time, for the most part, is a state of the church's sufferings, and is so represented in scripture. Indeed God is pleased, out of love and pity to his elect, to grant many intermissions of the church's sufferings during this time, whereby the days of tribulation are as it were shortened. But from Christ's resurrection till the fall of Anti
christ, is the appointed day of Zion's troubles. During this space of time, for the most part, 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 threc 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 represented in Rev. vii. at the beginning, by the angel's holding the four winds for a little while. But presently after, the church again suffered persecution from the Arians; and after that, Antichrist rose, and the church was driven away into the wilderness, and was kept down in obscurity, and contempt, and suffering for a long time, under Antichrist before the reformation by Luther and others. And since the Reformation, the church's persecutions have been beyond all that ever were before. And though some parts of God's church sometimes have had rest, yet to this day, for the most part, the true church is very much kept under by its enemies, and some parts of it under grievous persecution ; and so we may expect it will continue till the fall of Antichrist ; and then will come the appointed day of the church's prosperity on earth, the set time in which God will favor Zion, the time when the saints shall not be kept under by wicked men, as it has been hitherto ; but wherein they shall be uppermost, and shall reign on earth, as it is said, Rev. v. 10. “ And the kingdom shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High,” Dan. vii. 27.
This suffering state of the church is in scripture represented as a state of the church's travail, John xvi. 20, 21, and Rev. xii. 1, 2. What the church is in travail striving to bring forth during this time, is that glory and prosperity of the church which shall be after the fall of Antichrist, and then shall she bring forth her child. This is a long time of the church's trouble and affiction, and is so spoken of in scripture, though it be spoken of as being but for a little season, in comparison of the
eternal prosperity of the church. Hence the church, under the long continuance of this affliction, cries out, as in Rev. vi. 10. « How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ?" And we are told, that " white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” So, Dan. xii. 6. “ How long shall it be to the end of these wonders ?”
It is to be observed, that during the time of these sufferings of the church, the main instrument of their sufferings has been the Roman government: Her afflictions have almost all along been from Rome. That is therefore in the New Testament called Babylon ; because, as of old, the troubles of the city 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, is 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.
In showing how the success of Christ's redemption is carried on, during this time of the church's tribulation, I would,
1. Show how it was carried on till the destruction of Jeru. salem, with which ended the first great dispensation of Providence which is called Christ's coming in his kingdom.
2. How it was carried on from thence to the destruction of the Heathen empire in the time of Constantine, which is the second dispensation called Christ's coming.
3. How it is carried on from thence to the destruction of Antichrist, when will be accomplished the third great event called Christ's coming, and with which the days of the church's tribulation and travail end.
1. I would 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 the enemies of it: And, 3, the terrible judgments of God on those enemies.
1. I would observe the success itself. Soon after Christ had finished the purchase of redemption, and was gone into heaven, and 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 in the world, 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 heavens reigning with great glory in his Heathen Roman empire : But never before had he such a downfal 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, by his death, having purchased the Holy Spirit, and having ascended, and received the Spirit, he 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, before he forsook them, to turn to the Gentiles. 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. So it was in the rejection of the ten tribes, long before this rejection: The bulk of the ten tribes were rejected,when they left the true worship of God in Jeroboam's time, and afterwards more fully in Ahab's time. But yet there was a remnant of them that God reserved. A number left their possessions in these tribes, and went and settled in the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. And afterwards there were seven thousand in A. hab's time, who had not bowed the knee to Baal. And so, in the captivity into Babylon, only a rennant of them ever returned to their own land. And so now again, by far 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 remnants : Rom. ix. 27. “Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved.” See Işa. x. 22.
The glorious success of the gospel among the Jews after Christ's ascension, began by the pouring out of the Spirit upon the day of Pentecost, of which we read in Acts ii. So wonderful was this pouring out of the Spirit, and so remarkable and swift the effect of it, that we read of three thousand who were converted to the Christian faith in one day, Acts ii. 41. And probably the greater part of these were savingly converted. And after this, we read of God's adding to the church daily such as should be saved verse 47. And soon after, we read, that the number of them were about five thousand. Thus were not only a multitude converted, but the church was then eminent in piety, as appears by Acts ii. 46, 47, and iv. 32.
Thus the Christian church was first of all of the nation of Israel; and therefore, when the Gentiles were called, they were but as it were added to Israel, to the seed of Abraham VOL. II.