Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

for example, this same discourse closeth with these solemn words.--"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world;" and again, Matt. x. 38, "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me....I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's foes shall be they of his own house ;” and again, Matt. xvi. 24, “ If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me;" and again, when he would promise blessings to his faithful disciples for their sacrifice of all things for himself, he doth promise them persecutions along with them (Mark X. 29); “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren or sisters, or father or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the Gospel's, but he shall receive an hundred-fold more in this time; houses and brethren and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come life everlasting.” And to shew the universality of this condition of abandoning all dear affections of the heart and near relations, in order to be Christ's disciples, take that which is written Luke xiv. 25: “And there went great multitudes with him and he turned and said unto them, If

any man come unto me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple; and whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.... Whosoever he be of you that doth not forsake all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Now, I ask any one who is in the habit of receiving Christ's words unto his disciples as of unlimited and universal application, if these passages do not imply, do not expressly state, that sacrifice and suffering from all persons, the nearest and the dearest, should be the constant experience of his saints. One of two conclusions must necessarily follow : either that he did not foresee that his church was to be professed by whole nations of men, and established by authority of law, which would prevent such sacrifice and loss and suffering ; or else, if he foresaw this, the other conclusion standeth, that this outward professing church was to contain within it, and chiefly to consist of, false professors and apostates, who should bring upon the true believers those cruel calamities which he foretelleth unto them all. Naw, because I believe that the Lord both foreknew and hath brought to pass the establishment of his church over many nations, I do hold it certain that in those nations, and in every family thereof, there dwell, under the guise of Christians, wolves in sheep's clothing; in other words, a mystery of iniquity; in other words, an apostasy, which shall aye be ready to spoil and cruelly entreat the little filock unto whom it hath pleased the Father to give the kingdom. This great point I shall further establish by another document, derived from the parables of the Lord.

4. The other method of establishing this same proposition out of the Gospels, which I call indirect, because it is gathered not from positive declaration, but from similitudes,—though, from the number and the distinctness of the variety of them, it is to my own mind the most sufficient and satisfactory of the two, is by examining those parables whereby our Lord bath described the kingdom of heaven; in all of which the condition of the visible church, both during the absence and at the coming of the Lord, is indirectly described. But first I must explain what is meant by the expression itself. The expression “kingdom of heaven” must certainly signify something which the Jews were both well acquainted with and deeply interested in : for not only the Baptist, but the Lord and his twelve apostles, and the seventy disciples, did chiefly go about to announce it to be at hand, which would have been an idle errand, unless it had been a thing the people were both expecting and desiring. Moreover, our Lord's ministry was chiefly employed in teaching and explaining of what kind this kingdom was to be; first, hid from observation; then, most observable and glorious. Now it is clear that the Lord and his disciples would not have begun and continued to preach about something under the name of the kingdom of heaven, unless the Jews had already been familiar with that word, and expecting that thing: nor would he have been at such pains to give them the true idea of it, unless they were already entertaining some inaccurate idea of it. This doth not stand upon our inference merely, but is expressly declared in several parts of the Gospels, as Luke xix. 11, xvii. 20; Acts i. 6. Now whence had the Jews this knowledge of the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, if not from the OldTestament Scriptures : to which if we refer, we find it every where in the Psalms and the Prophets, but especially in the prophet Daniel; by whom, vii. 13, 14, 18, 27, 28, we have this kingdom of heaven, or of God, or of the Son of man, or of the saints, laid down, as to place, upon the earth ; as to extent, including all people and nations and languages; as to duration, for ever; as to time, immediately after the destruction of the fourth or Roman kingdom, and upon the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven. To this prophecy, which so defines the place, time, and circumstances, of the great hope of all the faithful, the Lord commonly makes reference when he designates himself “ Son of Man," and always when he represents himself as “ coming in the clouds of heaven;" for it is the only part of the Old Testament wherein the last expression occurreth, and, besides the viiith and the lxxxth Psalm, the only one where the

2

former occurreth. I have no manner of doubt, therefore, that our blessed Lord and his disciples, in preaching or announcing the good news (Gospel) of the kingdom, did nothing else than encourage the grand hope of Abraham, that he was to be “heir of the world,” into the inheritance of which we Gentiles enter by faith. (Rom. iv. 13 et seq.) He found the idea incorrectly entertained by the Jewish people, especially as to its immediate appearance; and this

he is at pains to correct by many instructions; as to Nicodemus, John iii., where he teacheth the dispensation of the Spirit as being about to precede it: Luke xvii. 20, where he teacheth to the Pharisees the kingdom of love and joy and peace in the Holy Ghost, which is within a man, and followed with the visible and most ostentatious kingdom, which was about to come: as to all the people, Luke xix. 11, where he teacheth the long delay during which his disciples were to be entrusted with gifts and graces of the Spirit to use and improve unto God's glory, and afterward an abundant reward at his coming: as to Pontius Pilate, John xviii. 36, whose conscience he set at rest by telling him, that “his kingdom was not out of this world,” but from the heavens, after the present fashion of the world should be done away with, in “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (wherefore also it is called the kingdom of the heavens, as being now there manifested and from the earth hidden, from this world's sight prevented by the rulers of its darkness, Eph. ii. 2); but withal he declared and testified, that he was a King ; though of the nature of his kingdom he did not at such a time or to such a one discourse, signifying in one word the reason thereof, that “those only who are of the truth hear his voice.”

Let this suffice for the exposition of what is meant by the expression “ the kingdom of heaven;" that it is the reign of Christ and his saints upon the earth, which, foretold by the prophets from the first of time, began first to be openly preached by John, Luke xvi. 16, and is till now the one and the only subject of preaching, which is called the Gospel; being only the good news, or glad tidings, of that kingdom of rest and glory which is prepared for all that believe God and obey Christ, and to which they shall be raised up in the day of his glorious appearing. Reconciliation by the cross of Christ is the allaying of our fears God-ward ; and sanctification is the purging of our conscience unto obedience of the Holy Spirit, the sealer and preserver until the day of redemption; and salvation is the deliverance from judgment in the day of his appearing; but all these are but the steps to that throne and kingdom which is prepared by the Father for his eternal Son and his adopted sons, upon

this earth and over all creatures, for ever and ever. Now, let us proceed to examine those parables which treat of the kingdom, and which do, as we have asserted, cast an indirect

but most distinct light upon the state of the church up to and at the time of Christ's appearing.

And here, first, we refer to that series of parables which is contained in the xiiith of Matthew, where the kingdom of heaven is likened to a field where the wheat is hidden by the multitude of tares; and not cleared until the harvest-time, when the tares are burned and the children of the kingdom (the wheat), heretofore hidden, shine forth all at once most gloriously bright and glaring as the sun in the firmament. This parable proves that the heirs of the kingdom were for a season to be planted, and to grow, beside the heirs of perdition, until the end of this age and form of the world; and then, but not till then, the enemies and offenders being taken away by judgments of the Son of Man, the righteous should take and possess and gloriously occupy the world. This is a universal truth, so long as the present age of this world lasteth, until the great judgment of the wicked upon the earth shall bring in that blessed age wherein dwelleth righteousness: wherever the Gospel of the kingdom is preached (the seed is “ the word of the kingdom,” ver. 19), there are found some to receive it, who, being sealed with the Holy Ghost, are children of the kingdom, waiting for the day of redemption, Rom. viii. 23; Eph. i. 13, iv. 30. And what redemption need they? Our parable tells us, a redemption from the darkness, the oppression, and disgrace with which they are now covered by the neighbourhood and immediate contact of these tares, children of the wicked one; the things that offend and that do iniquity; which are to grow beside them till the conclusion of this age, and the beginning of the age to come; till the Son of Man, now and till then known as a sower of seed, shall begin to be known as a reaper of the harvest, with his crown on his head, and his sickle in his hand (Rev. xiv. 15); and likewise as the burner of the tares, or the treader of the wine-press of the earth (Rev. xiv. 18), which is nothing else than the destruction of those false prophets, those pretenders to the kingdom, who grew in the same field and by the side of the good seed, or children of the kingdom. For it is to be observed, that the tare of eastern countries is the very counterfeit of wheat, with its stalk and bearded prickles, and hardly to be known from the wheat till at the time of harvest it prove fruitless. And this is the reason why the servants are not permitted to pluck them up till the harvest, when the angels of power and strength are sent to consume them with fire, in the day when the Son of Man cometh to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to make the secret thoughts of every heart to be manifest. This parable, therefore, there can be no doubt, yieldeth the conclusion that there was to be in the bosom of the church a great multitude of false disciples, of counterfeit and spurious persons, who should

[ocr errors]

hide from the sight and knowledge of all but God alone, the true children of the kingdom, and be a continual offence, and work iniquity; whose consumption and destruction should be by judgments of the Son of Man, and not by preaching of the Son of Man; by the labour not of the sower, but of the harvestman; not by the servants of the sower, but by the angels of the discerning and dividing reaper.

Let us now very briefly shew the illustration of this truth derived from another parable, spoken at the same time; in which the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind,-notof one kind, but of every kind, good and bad. Now what meaneth this, but that the Gospel, or good news of the kingdom, when preached over the world, should attract men of very different characters, men of every kind of character ?—that the same outward visible boundary should enclose them all, as the net encloseth all the fishes? And this condition of intermixture should continue while the net was sweeping the world and including men. But when it should become full—that is, when the fulness of the time of calling men to come into the kingdom should be accomplished; when the dispensation of Gospel-preaching and Gospel-ordinances should be ended, as we know it is to be ; when, from sowing, the Son of Man should turn his hand to reap, and come seated on the cloud of his glory, with a crown upon his head and a sharp sickle in his hand—then, and not till then, it is, that the mixed multitude whom the trumpet of the kingdom, which is preaching, hath congregated together, shall be separated, and the good ones be blessed with that deliverance from false brethren, which in this present age they cannot possess. “ Which, when it was full, they drew to shore....they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, and cast the bad away.... So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Now can any thing be more distinct than these two parables are, with respect to the condition of the church during this present age? If any one ask, what the expression this “ pre

meaneth, I will answer him by referring to that saying which he spake to the Sadducees, in answer to their question upon the subject of the resurrection (Luke xx. 24): - The children of this world [age] marry, and are given in marriage; but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world [age), and the resurrection from the dead” (literally, “ the resurrection, the one out of the dead”), “ neither marry nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being children of the resurrection.” From this passage

sent age

« AnteriorContinuar »