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New Testament, I need not labour much to prove; Malachi being the last prophet of the Old Testament. The rising of the sun, &c. verse 2, is applied to Christ in John i, 9; as verse 5 also, touching Elijah, is applied in part to signify John Baptist, the harbinger of Christ, Matthew xvii, 13.
But the great question is, How far into the times of the New Testament does this prophecy run ?-to answer which, lay this for a ground work; that the time to which it reaches is called the GREAT AND DREADFUL DAY OF THE LORD;—a day that shall burn as an oven, consuming the proud and wicked as stubble, &c. (vv. 1, 5.)
Observe then, this cannot be extended to the ultimate day of judgement, at the universal resurrection of the wicked, then cast into the lake of fire,f for these reasons: First, because at or after this dreadful and burning day, "Christ the Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings, to them that fear his name; and they shall go forth, and shall grow up as calves of the stall;" (v. 2;) whereas at the ultimate judgement the elect have done growing. Secondly, because an "Elijah "must be sent before the coming of the great and dreadful day "of the Lord; who shall turn the heart of the fathers to the "children, and the heart of the children to their fathers:" (vv. 5, 6) which again is not a work to be done at that ultimate judgement; for then " he that is unjust, let him be unjust still ; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still:"s then is a time of destruction, not of conversion. Thirdly, it is added in the last verse of Malachi, that Elijah must come, and shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, lest the Lord come, and smite the earth with a curse:" but at the ultimate judgement, there is no further smiting and cursing of the earth remains.
On the other hand, this prophecy cannot be cut so short as to terminate in Christ's first coming. For then was no dreadful day of the Lord, burning as a fiery oven, so as to consume the proud and wicked doers, root and branch. He came then to save, not to destroy: and therefore, though he cursed the fig tree to warn men, yet with all his power and miracles, he never killed or crippled any man; being infinitely injured, he revenged not; yea, he rather healed the wound of Malchus, his enemy.
f Rev. xx, 12.
8 Rev. xxii, 11.
Thus it may be seen how straitly we are bounded; so that we cannot fall so short as Christ's first coming, nor launch forth so far as to the universal resurrection of all the wicked at the ultimate judgement: and therefore no time can shape and correspond to the circumstances and characters of this prophecy, but that abutting upon the beginning, entrance, or prelude of the whole day of judgement, containing the thousand years. This we shall endeavour to demonstrate by the arguments which follow.
1. That" burning of all the proud and evil doers as stubble," "leaving them neither root nor branch," (v. 1,) and that trampling them under the feet of the saints as ashes," (v. 3.) do most harmoniously concord with the times of the last ruining of the antichristian enemies of the Church, before the raising her to her great restoration and the restitution of all things. Compare Rev. xviii throughout, xix, 11-21, and xx, 1—5. In which places we have a burning and trampling, as in war; or destroying " bond and free, great and small," (answerable to root and branch;) and all this before the rising and reigning of the saints at the beginning of the thousand years, and a thousand years or upwards before the general execution of all the wicked body and soul in hell fire. For most emphatically it is said in Rev. xx, 7-15 that after the thousand years are expired Satan is loosed, and deceives the nations, and that then he is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet ARE, or were before. (Chap. xix, 20.) And with the Devil the dead wicked, raised and judged according to the books there opened, are cast also into the lake of fire. Whether this corporal destruction, as to the means by which it shall be accomplished, be ordinary or miraculous, alters not the case. But to dream of a spiritual destruction by the word, and to be set forth by fire and war, and in a continued speech that sounds of nothing but opposition against Christ to the very death, appears to my reason no better than a mere imaginary fiction; and the rather, because "slaying" some men, and "giving their flesh to the fowls of the air," is emphatically distinguished from "casting the other alive into the lake of fire;" as this also is distinguished from the general damnation in hell fire, in the last verse of the twentieth chapter.
2. The second verse, Unto you that fear my Name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings," cannot be more fitly applied than to 2 Pet. i. 16-19. "We have not "followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye "witnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the 'Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him "from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son in whom I am "well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard,
when we were with Him in the holy mount. We have also a "more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye "take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until "the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts." Now Peter writing to the Jews as their Apostle,h holds forth to them in the words before quoted, three things: 1st, that all along he there speaks of Christ. 2nd. That there is a two-fold coming of Christ; the one past when he wrote this second Epistle, viz. when he came at first in the flesh, receiving that testimony by voice from heaven;i (v. 17;) the other to come, held forth by the day dawning and the day-star to arise, &c. (v. 19.) That this day-star is Christ is plain both by the context of Peter's speech, which is all of Christ; and by the sense of the day-star, which is the sun, as the moon also is the night-star.k So that "the Sun of righteousness, arising with healing in his wings (that is, in his beams) and "the Day-star shining into the hearts of men," is all one. It is further evident from the antithesis put between the word of prophecy," named as only "a light shining in a dark place," (i.e. a candle, or small star, in the night,) and the day-star making full day; no person being to be exalted above the word of the prophets but Christ; who, when he shines with a full body upon the whole compass of the moon, his Church, makes her full of light, that before had much darkness mixed with her light. 3rd. Peter holds forth to the Jews, in the continuation of his discourse, when this day-star shall arise in their hearts; viz. when it shall shine in the generality of them; that is, that Christ shall be effectually made known to the lump of the Jews, (as Paul, Rom. xi, calls the nation
i Matt. xvii, 5. k Psalm cxxxvi, 8, 9.
h Gal, ii, 7; 1 Pet. i, 1.
or body of them yet unconverted, but in after time to be converted ;) so that the "all of Israel shall be saved." And further that he shall with a dawning of the day remove the long night of their afflictions. For as for a spiritual shining by some grace in the hearts of a few Jews, the Apostle acknowledges that to be now done already; (v. 1;) but this was only through "a light shining in a dark place :" hereafter, however, when the day dawns, the Sun, the Day-star, shall arise in their hearts. And this, by the process of his discourse, shall be at the great destruction of their enemies, and the restoration of the Church. (Chap. 3.) For having mentioned an adherence to the word of prophecy until the day dawn, and the Day-star arise, &c. he busies himself in advancing the true divine prophecies, dictated to holy men of God by his Spirit, and the interpretation thereof according to the public tenor of the prophets and apostles; (v. 20;) and declaiming against false prophets and teachers, damnably teaching and seducing the people (chap. ii. throughout;) I say, he occupies himself in these two things, till he return in the third chapter (see verses 1, 2) to exhort the Jews afresh to be mindful of the words of the prophets, and consonantly of the words of Christ and his apostles according to those prophecies. To what end?-Why to observe the time when this prophecy shall have an end; that the day may dawn, and the Day-star arise. For, (saith he,) though some, through wilful ignorance, scoff at the promise of Christ's coming; yet, though it be a thousand years off and more, all this to God is but as one day; and when that time is come, that day shall be a thousand years. So that though it seem long to men, (yea, so long to impenitent men, as if he would never come,) yet he will be sure to come, and that suddenly as a thief in the night; and formidably to the wicked, as in a day of doom, the "heavens passing away," and the "elements melting" and the "works of the earth dissolving. But not so to the Church, (expressed with a keen antithesis, —nevertheless :) "Nevertheless, we according to his promise (that ancient promise so particularly expressed Isa. lxv, 17—20, &c.) look for new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness;" which cannot be the description of a state in the highest heavens, which were never worn old, nor made of earth, nor without the inhabitation of righteousness. So that the result
of Peter's discourse is, that that Sun of righteousness, or Daystar shall rise and radiate, at the time of the dissolution of the power of the wicked, and the restitution of all things for the glory of the Church on earth.
3. That coming of Elijah (v. 5.) before this great day, must signify an Elijah yet to come, either personally, or personatedly. For though Elijah is said to come in part, personatedly in John Baptist, yet Elijah's coming is not totally, nor mainly fulfilled to this day. He must yet come again, either (as we said) personally,—that is, he himself individually in his own person; or else personatedly,—that is, (if I may so speak) specifically, being represented by one of the like kind and degree of parts exactly like unto him; viz. mighty in spirit and action, "to convert the heart of the fathers to the children," before that great day when he shall " restore all things."m That this truth may find the better entertainment in men's apprehensions, I will for the most part waive my own opinion herein, and present the words of divers learned men.
The Scribes among the Jews asserted, after John Baptist's death, from this very text of Malachi, that Elijah was to come.n From them some of the disciples of Christ take up the same tenet, as worthy of consideration touching the coming of Elijah, and press it upon our Saviour. The Lord, in answer to them, first clearly acknowledges at that time, a good while after John Baptist's death,* that Elijah SHALL COME, and asserts it with a "truly," adding moreover that when he comes, he SHALL RESTORE ALL THINGS." Which is one main reason, that John Baptist's time on earth, was not the all of Elijah's coming. Besides, Christ speaks of Elijah's coming, so long after John Baptist's death, in the present tense (epɣerai) cometh, intimating that he is still coming, or to come. Therefore as Christ comes twice, so with a proportionable decorum, his harbinger comes twice, both times to usher in his master. The one is past in John Baptist; the other is to come, in him that is still called and expected by the name of Elijah.
Of the Christians, since Christ's ascension, there are many
1 Matt. xvii. 12. m Ibid. v, 11. n Ibid. v. 10.
* For John Baptist was beheaded anno 32 after Christ's birth, and Christ's transfiguration, after which this discourse ensued, was anno 33. Bucholcerus.