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TO THE THIRD EDITION.
WHEN the following Discourse was first published, (1812,) the subject on which it treats wore in some measure the aspect of novelty, though in itself as old as the times of the Apostles. Within the last four or five years, however, not only has "the first resurrection," but all the other doctrines connected with the reign of the Redeemer have been amply discussed by a considerable number of pious and respectable writers. The author having (as far as he knows himself) an unfeigned desire to be led into the truth on so momentous a subject, has read much of what has been written against his view, as well as in favour of it; and he is constrained to declare, that he now sends forth the third edition of his Sermon with a confirmed assurance, that what he has written is in accordance with "the oracles of God."
A SERMON, &c.
REVELATION xx. 6.
"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection, on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.'
THE book from whence these words are taken, is that with which the canon of Scripture is closed. A blessing is pronounced on those who hear, and read, and keep its sayings, a curse is pronounced upon any who add to them or take from them. It is the last revelation of THE LORD JESUS CHRIST himself to his beloved disciple, concerning things which were then about to commence, and things which should be hereafter, until the world, as it now is, should pass away, and time itself should be no more. These few circumstances, and many others which might be mentioned, ought to render it deeply interesting to the Christian. So many of the events foretold in the former chapters of the book have already occurred in the different ages to which they relate, that, in proportion as persons have attentively studied this part of the Sacred Writ in connection with the history of the Church and of the world, in the same degree have they been led to admire and adore the inscrutable wisdom of its Author. From this fact we derive an infallible assurance that those further predictions which regard our own times, and the latter days of the world, will as certainly be fulfilled in their season.
The particular passage to which I am about to direct your attention, relates to what shall take place in the last times, when the judgments of God shall have been poured out on the beast and the false prophet, when all the wicked and unbelieving, as well as all perverters of the truth, shall have been exterminated from the earth; when Satan himself shall have been bound and cast into the pit, and the kingdom of the REDEEMER shall be universally established. This is manifest
from the context. In the 19th and following verses of the preceding chapter, we are presented with an account of the destruction of these enemies of God in the great battle of the last day.
"And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
"And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived him that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
"And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth; and all the fowls were filled with their flesh."
In the commencement of this xxth chapter, we have a description of the binding of Satan.
"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand.
"And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.
"And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled; and after that he must be loosed a little season."
At the 4th verse, we read of the establishment of the Redeemer's kingdom and the reign of his saints.
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
At the 5th verse, the state of the rest of the dead is set forth. "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." And now is introduced the declaration of the text, which is to be the subject of our present meditation. "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
Let us, First, inquire, then, What we are to understand by the First Resurrection? and,
Secondly, What shall be the Character and Privileges of those that partake of it?
First, then, we are to inquire, What is to be understood by the First Resurrection. It is unquestionably true, that a spiritual change is wrought here on earth in the souls of the people of God, which in Scripture is figuratively called a resurrection. Of every sinner who is truly converted to God by the power of his Spirit, it may be affirmed, as well as of the Ephesians, "You hath he quickened who were "dead in trespasses and sins."* Our Lord himself declared, of all those who were enabled truly to believe on his name, that they had passed from death unto life. All that have through grace become penitent and obedient believers in Jesus, are said to be "risen with him," and on this very account are exhorted to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.t Of the spiritual resurrection, therefore, of sinners, from a death in sin, to a life of faith and holiness, when they are brought into union with the Saviour, and to a participation of the blessings of his Gospel, there no doubt. But of this the Holy Ghost is not speaking in the words of the text. He is rather prophetically declaring what shall come to pass at a particular period clearly, marked out in the dispensations of the Almighty, with respect to all those who have been thus quickened by his Spirit, "working in due season." He is evidently speaking in this passage, not of a figurative but of a literal resurrection. The more minutely the context is examined, the more clearly must this appear. It is well known, indeed, that many commentators have laboured hard to prove (had it been possible) that St. John speaks figuratively in this place, of a more extensive diffusion of spiritual religion in the world. But I am constrained to confess, that, however highly I may estimate their opinions on other subjects, their arguments on this appear to me to be inconclusive and unsatisfactory.
The apostle speaks unequivocally, of what he calls the first resurrection, which should occur at the time when Jesus should come to establish his kingdom in glory. The first resurrection must, therefore, be of the same nature as the second and last, mentioned at the close of the chapter, namely, a literal one, for it is in relation to this that it is designated the first. It is, moreover, plainly intimated to us in other parts of the sacred volume, that there shall be Two resurrections, one of the just, and the other of the unjust, and that the one shall precede the other, and take place at the second coming of our Lord.
It will be necessary to attend to a few of these passages, in order to confirm the truth of what has been asserted. And * Eph. ii. 1. + Col. iii. 1.