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are the waters of the long channel of divine Providence, which has so many branches, and so many windings and turnings, emptied out into their proper ocean, which they have been seeking from the beginning and head of their course, and so are come to their rest. So far as Christ's kingdom is established in the world, so far are things wound up and settled in their everlasting state, and a period put to the course of things in this changcable world ; so far are the first heavens and the first earth come to an end, and the new heavens and the new earth, the everlasting heavens and earth, established in their room.
This leads me to observe,
IV. That the state of things which is attained by the events of this period, is what is so often called the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God. We very often read in the New Testament of the kingdom of heaven. John the Baptist preached, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand; and so did Christ, and his disciples after him ; referring to something that the Jews in those days expected, and very much talked of, which they called by that name. They seem to have taken their expectation and the name chiefly from that prophecy of Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Dan. ii. 44, “ And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom ;" together with that in chap. vii. 13, 14.
Now this kingdom of heaven is that evangelical state of things in his church, and in the world, wherein consists the success of Christ's redemption in this period. There had been often great kingdoms set up before, which were earthly kingdoms; as the Babylonish, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman monarchies. But Christ came to set up the last kingdom, which is not an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly, and so is the kingdom of heaven: John xviii. 36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” This is the kingdom of which Christ speaks, Luke xxii. 29, “My Father hath appointed to me a kingdom.” This kingdom began soon after Christ's resurrection, and was accomplished in various steps from that time to the end of the world. Sometimes by the kingdor of heaven, is meant that spiritual state of the church which began soon after Christ's resurrection; sometimes that more perfect state of the church which shall obtain after the downfall of Antichrist; and sometimes that glorious and blessed state to which the church shall be received at the day of judgment: 1 Cor. xv. 50, the apostle, speaking of the resurrection, says, “This I say, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”
Under this head I would observe several things particularly, for the clearer understanding of what the Scripture says concerning this period.
1. The setting up of the kingdom of Christ is chiefly accomplished by four successive great events, each of which is in Scripture called Christ's coming in his kingdom. The whole success of Christ's redemption is comprehended in one word, viz., his setting up his kingdom. This is chiefly done by four great successive dispensations of Providence; and every one of them is represented in Scripture as Christ's coming in his kingdom. The first is Christ's appearing in those wonderful dispensations of Providence in the apostles' days in setting up his kingdom, and destroying the enemies of his kingdom, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem. This is called Christ's coming in his kingdom, Matt. xvi. 28: “ Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingom.” And so it is represented in Matt. xxiv. The second is that which was accomplished in Constantine's time, in the destruction of the Heathen Roman empire. This is represented as Christ's coming, and is compared to his coming to judgment, in the 6th chapter of Revelation at the latter end. The third is that which is to be accomplished at the destruction of Antichrist. This also is represented as Christ's coming in his kingdom in the 7th chapter of Daniel, and in other places, as I may possibly show hereafter, when I come to speak of it. The fourth and last is his coming to the last judgment, which is the event principally signified, in Scripture by Christ's coming in his kingdom.
2. I would observe, that each of the three former of these is a lively image or type of the fourth and last, viz., Christ's coming to the final judgment, as the principal dispensations of Providence before Christ's first coming, were types of that first coming. As Christ's last coming to judgment is accompanied with a resurrection of the dead, so is each of the three foregoing with a spiritual resurrection. That coming of Christ which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, was preceded by a glorious spiritual resurrection of souls in the calling of the Gentiles, and bringing home such multitudes of souls to Christ by the preaching of the gospel. So Christ's coming in Constantine's time, was accompanied with a glorious spiritual resurrection of the greater part of the known world, in a restoration of it to a visible church state, from a state of Heathenism. So Christ's coming at the destruction of Antichrist, will be attended with a spiritual resurrection of the church after it had been long as it were dead in the times of Antichrist. This is called the first resurrection in the 20th chapter of Revelation.
Again, as Christ in the last judgment will gloriously manifest himself, coming in the glory of his Father, so in each of the three foregoing events, Christ gloriously manifested himself in sending judgments upon his enemies, and in showing grace and favor to his church; and as the last coming of Christ will be attended with a literal gathering together of the elect from the four winds of heaven, so were each of the preceding attended with a spiritual gathering in of the elect. As this gathering together of the elect will be effected by God's angels, with a great sound of a trumpet, as in Matt. xxiv. 31; so were each of the preceding spiritual ingatherings effected by the trumpet of the gospel, sounded by the ministers of Christ. As there shall precede the last appearance of Christ, a time of great degeneracy and wickedness, so this has been, or will be, the case with each of the other appearances. Before each of them is a time of great opposition to the church.— Before the first, by the Jews, in their persecutions that we read of in the New Testament ; before the second, viz., in Constantine's time, by the Heathen, in several successive persecutions raised by the Roman emperors against the Christians; before the third, by Antichrist; and before the last, by Gog and Magog, as described in the Revelation.
By each of these comings of Christ, God works a glorious deliverance for his church. Each of them is accompanied with a glorious advancement of the state of the church. The first, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, was attended with bringing the church into the glorious state of the gospel, a glorious state of the church very much prophesied of old, whereby the church was advanced into far more glorious circumstances than it was in before under the Jewish dispensation. The second, which was in Constantine's time, was accompanied with an advancement of the church into a state of liberty from persecution, and the countenance of civil authority, and triumph over their Heathen persecutors. The third, which shall be at the downfalt of Antichrist, will be accompanied with an advancement of the church into that state of the glorious prevalence of truth, liberty, peace, and joy, that we so often read of in the prophetical parts of Scripture. The last will be attended with the advancement of the church to consummate glory in both soul and body in neaven.
Each of these comings of Christ is accompanied with a terrible destruction of the wicked, and the enemies of the church. The first, with the destruction of the persecuting Jews, which was amazingly terrible; the second, with dreadful judgments on the Heathen persecutors of the church, of which more hereafter; the third, with the awful destruction of Antichrist, the most cruel and bitter enemy that ever the church had ; the fourth, with divine wrath and vengeance on all the ungodly
Further, there is in each of these comings of Christ an ending of the old heavens and the old earth, and a beginning of new heavens and a new earth; or an end of a ternporal state of things, and a beginning of an eternal state.
3. I would observe, that each of those four great dispensations which are represented as Christ's coming in his kingdom, are but so many steps and degrees of the accomplishment of one event. They are not the setting up of so many distinct kingdoms of Christ; they are all of thein only several degrees of the accoinplishment of that one event prophesied of, Dan. vii. 13, 14 : “ And I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before himn. And there was given himn dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him : his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." This is what the Jews expected, and called “the coming of the kingdom of heaven;" and what John the Baptist and Christ had respect to, when they said, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This great event is gradually accomplished, or is accomplished by several steps. Those four great events which have been mentioned, were several steps towards the accomplishment of this grand event. .
When Christ came with the preaching of the apostles, to set up his kingdom in the world, which dispensation ended with the destruction of Jerusalem, then it was accomplished in a glorious degree; when the Heathen empire was destroyed in Constantine's time, it was fulfilled in a further degree; when Antichrist shall be destroyed, it will be accomplished in a yet higher degree : but when the end of the world is come, then will it be accomplished in its most perfect degree of all; then it will be finally and completely accomplished. And because these four great events are but images one of another, and the three former but types of the last, and since they are all only several steps of the accomplishment of the same thing ; hence we find them all from time to time prophesied of under one, as they are in the prophecies of Daniel, and as they are in the 24th chapter of Matthew, where some things seem more applicable to one of them, and others to another.
4. I would observe, that, as there are several steps of the accomplishment of the kingdom of Christ, so in each one of them the event is accomplished in a further degree than in the foregoing. That in the time of Constantine was a greater and further accomplishment of the kingdom of Christ, than that which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem ; that which shall be at the fall of Antichrist, will be a further accomplishment of the same thing, than that which took place in the time of Constantine; and so on with regard to each : so that the kingdom of Christ is gradually prevailing and growing by these several great steps of its fulfilment, from the time of Christ's resurrection, to *he end of the world.
7. And lastly, it may be observed, that the great providences of Gud between these four great events, are to make way for the kingdom and glory of Christ in the great event following. Those dispensations of Providence which were towards the church of God and the world, before the destruction of the heathen empire in the time of Constantine, seem all to have been to make way for the glory of Christ, and the happiness of the church in that event. And so the great providences of God which are after that, till the destruction of Antichrist, and the beginning of the glorious times of the church which follow, seem all to be to prepare the way for the greater glory of Christ and his church in that event; and the providences of God which shall be after that to the end of the world, seem to be for the greater manifestation of Christ's glory at the end of the world, and in the consummation of all things.
Thus I thought it needful to observe those things in general concerning this last period of the series of God's providence, before I take notice of the particular providences by which the work of redemption is carried on through this period, in their order: and before I do that, I will also briefly answer to an Inquiry, viz., Why the setting up of Christ's kingdom after his humiliation, should be so gradual, by so many steps that are so long in accomplishing, since God could easily have finished it at once ?
Though it would be presumption in us to pretend to declare all the ends of God in this, yet doubtless much of the wisdom of God may be seen in it by us; and particularly in these two things.
1. In this way the glory of God's wisdom, in the manner of doing this, is more visible to the observation of creatures. If it bad been done at once, in an instant, or in a very short time, there would not have been such opportunities for creatures to perceive and observe the particular steps of divine wisdom, as when the work is gradually accomplished, and one effect of his wisdom is held forth to observation after another. It is wisely determined of God, to accomplish his great design by a wonderful and long series of events, that the glory of his wisdom may be displayed in the whole series, and that the glory of his perfections may be seen, appearing, as it were, by parts, and in particular successive manifestations : for if all that glory which appears in all these events had been manifested at once, it would have been too much for us, and more than we at once could take notice of; it would have dazzled our eyes, and overpowered our sight.
2. Satan is more gloriously triumphed over. God could easily, by an act of almighty power, at once have crushed Satan. But by giving him time to use his utmost subtlety to hinder the success of what Christ had done and suffered, he is not defeated merely by surprise, but has large opportunity to ply his utmost power and subtlety again and again, to strengthen his own interest all that he can by the work of many ages. Thus God destroys and confounds him, and sets up Christ's kingdom time after time, in spite of all his subtle machinations and great works, and by every step advances it still higher and higher, till at length it is fully set up, and Satan perfectly and eternally vanquished in the end of all things.
I now proceed to take notice of the particular events, whereby, from the end of Christ's humiliation to the end of the world, the success of Christ's purchase has been or shall be accomplished.
1. I would take notice of those things whereby Christ was put into an immediate capacity for accomplishing the end of his purchase.
2. I would show how he obtained or accomplished that success.
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I would take notice, first, of those things by which Christ was put into a capacity for accomplishing the end of his purchase. And they are two things, viz., his resurrection, and his ascension. As we observed before, the incarnation of Christ was necessary in order to Christ's being in a near capacity for the purchase of redemption; so the resurrection and ascension of Christ were requisite, in order to his accomplishing the success of his purchase.
I. His resurrection. It was necessary, in order to Christ's obtaining the end and effect of his purchase of redemption, that he should rise from the dead. For God the Father had committed the whole affair of redemption, not only the purchasing of it but the bestowing of the blessing purchased, to his Son, that he should not only purchase it as a priest, but actually bring it about as king; and that he should do this as God-man. For God the Father would have nothing to do with fallen man in a way of mercy, but by a mediator. But in order that Christ might carry on the work of redemption, and accomplish the success of his own purchase as God-man, it was necessary that he should be alive, and so that he should rise from the dead. Therefore Christ, after he had finished this purchase by death, and by continuing for a time under the power of death, rises from the dead, to fulfil the end of his purchase, and himself to bring about that for which he died : for this matter God the Father had committed unto him, that he might, as Lord of all, manage all to his own purpose: Rom. xiv, 9, “ For to this end Christ both died and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living."
Indeed Christ's resurrection, and so his ascension; was part of the success of what Christ did and suffered in his humiliation. For though Christ did not properly purchase redemption for himself, yet he purchased eternal life and glory for himself, by what he did and suffered ; and this eternal life and glory was given him as a reward of what he did and suffered : Phil. ii. 8, 9, “ He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, éven the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him." And it may be looked upon as part of the success of Christ's purchase, if it be considered, that Christ did not rise as a private person, but as the head of the elect church; so that they did, as it were, all rise with him. Christ was justified in his resurrection, i. e., God acquitted and discharged him hereby, as having done and suffered enough for the sins of all the elect: Rom. iv. 25, “ Who was delivered for our offences, und raised again for our justification.” And God put him in possession of eternal life, as the head of the church, as a sure earnest that they should follow. For when Christ rose from the dead, that was the beginning of eternal life in him. His life before his death was a mortal life, a temporal life; but his life after his resurrection was an eternal life: Rom. vi. 9, “ Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more : death hath no more dominion over him." Rev. i. 18, “I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen."-But he was put in possession of this eternal life, as the head of the body; and took possession of it, not only to enjoy himself, but to bestow on all who believe in him : so that the whole church, as it were, rises in him. And now he who lately suffered so much, after this is to suffer no more forever, but to enter into eternal glory. God. the Father neither expects nor desires any more suffering.
This resurrection of Christ is the most joyful event that ever came to pass •