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made great account of him, as appears by those places, and also by Acts xii. 25 : “ And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark ;” and Acts xiii. 5, “ And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they had also John to their minister;" and 2 Tim. iv. 11, “ Only Luke is with me: take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry.”
This Luke, who wrote the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, was a great companion of the Apostle Paul. He is spoken of as being with him in the last mentioned place, and speaks of himself as accompanying him in his travels in the history of the Acts; and therefore he speaks in the first person plural, when speaking of Paul's travels, saying, We went to such and such a place: we set sail : we launched from such a place; and landed at such a place. He was greatly beloved by the Apostle Paul: he is that beloved physician spoken of, Col. iv. 14. The apostle ranks Mark and Luke among his fellow laborers; Philemon 24, “Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellow laborers.”
The rest of the books were all written by the apostles themselves. The books of the New Testament are either historical, or doctrinal, or prophetical. The historical books are the writings of the four evangelists, giving us the history of Christ and his purchase of redemption, and his resurrection and ascension ; and the Acts of the Apostles, giving an account of the great things by which the Christian church was first established and propagated. The doctrinal books are the epistles. These, most of them, we have from the great Apostle Paul. And we have one prophetical book, which takes place after the end of the history of the whole Bible, and gives an account of the great events which were to come to pass, by which the work of redemption was to be carried on to the end of the world.
All these books are supposed to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, excepting those which were written by the Apostle John, who lived the longest of all the apostles, and wrote what he wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem, as is supposed. And to this beloved disciple it was that Christ revealed those wonderful things which were to 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.
§ II. 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 two very 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.
cuted. mundred yearle object after this, For a littholding the
First, I would show how the success of Christ's redemption is carried on during the continuance of the church's suffering state, from the resurrection of Christ to the fall of Antichrist. This space 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 Antichrist, 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 three 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 niuch 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 kingilom 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 affliction, 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 uf 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 Jerusalem, 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.
How it was 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.
I. 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 heaven, reigning with great glory in his Heathen Roman empire : but never before had he such a downfall 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 Ahab's time, who had not bowed the knee to Baal. And so, in the captivity into Babylon, only a reinnant 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 prea hing 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 Isa. 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. They were added to the Christian church of Israel, as the proselytes of old were to the. Mosaic church of Israel; and so were as it were only grafted on the stock of Abraham, and were not a distinct tree; for they are all still the seed of Abraham and Israel; as Ruth the Moabitess, and Uriah the Hittite, and other proselytes of old, were the same people, and ranked as the seed of Israel.
So the Christian church at first began at Jerusalem, and from thence was propagated to all nations : so that this church of Jerusalem was the church ihat was as it were the mother of all other churches in the world ; agreeable to the prophecy, Isaiah ii. 3, 4, “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and he shall judge among the nations, and rebuke many people.” So that the whole church of God is still God's Jerusalem; they are his spiritual Jerusalem, and are as it were only added to the church, which was begun in the literal Jerusalem.
After this, we read of many thousands of Jews that believed in Jerusalem, Acts xxi. 20. And so we read of multitudes of Jews who were converted in other cities of Judea; and not only so, but even in other parts of the world. For wherever the apostles went, if there were any Jews there, their manner was first to go into the synagogues of the Jews, and preach the gospel to them, and many in one place and another believed; as in Damascus and Antioch, and many other places that we read of in the Acts of the Apostles.
In this pouring out of the Spirit, which began at the Pentecost following Christ's ascension, began that first great dispensation which is called Christ's coming in his kingdom.---Christ's coming thus in a spiritual manner for the glorious setting up of his kingdom in the world, is represented by Christ himself as his coming down from heaven, whither he had ascended, John xiv. 18. There Christ, having been speaking of his ascension, says, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you," speaking of his coming by the coming of the Comforter, the Spirit of truth. And verse 28, “ Ye have heard how | said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you.” And thus the apostles
began to see the kingdom of heaven come with power, as he promised they should, Mark ix. 1.
(2.) What is next to be observed is the success of the gospel among the Samaritans. After the success of the gospel had been so gloriously begun among the proper Jews, the Spirit of God was next wonderfully poured out on the Samaritans, who were not Jews by nation, but the posterity of those whom the king of Assyria removed from different parts of his dominions, and settled in the land that was inhabited by the ten tribes whom he carried captive. But yet they had received the five books of Moses, and practised most of the rites of the law of Moses, and so were a sort of mongrel Jews. We do not find them reckoned as Gentiles in the New Testament: for the calling of the Gentiles is spoken of as a new thing after this, beginning with the conversion of Cornelius. But yet it was an instance of making that a people that were no people : for they had corrupted the religion which Moses commanded, and did not go up to Jerusalem to worship, but had another temple of their own in mount Gerizim ; which is the mountain of which the woman of Samaria speaks, when she says, “ Our fathers worshipped in this mountain." Christ there does not approve of their separation from the Jews; but tells the woman of Samaria, that they worshipped they knew not what, and that salvation is of the Jews. But now salvation is brought from the Jews to them by the preaching of Philip (excepting that before Christ had some success among them), with whose preaching there was a glorious pouring out of the Spirit of God in the city of Samaria; where we are told that “the people believed Philip, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of Christ, and were baptized, both men and women; and that there was great joy in that city," Acts viii. 8–12.
Thus Christ had a glorious harvest in Samaria; which is what Christ seems to have had respect to, in what he said to his disciples at Jacob's well, three or four years before, on occasion of the people of Samaria's appearing at a distance in the fields coming to the place where Christ was, at the instigation of the woman of Samaria. On that occasion he bids his disciples lift up their eyes to the fields, for that they were white to the harvest, John iv. 35, 36. The disposition which the people of Samaria showed towards Christ and his gospel, showed that they were ripe for the harvest. But now the harvest is come by Philip's preaching. There used to be a most bitter enmity between the Jews and Samaritans; but now, by their conversion, the Christian Jews and Samaritans are all happily united'; for in Christ Jesus is neither Jew nor Samaritan, but Christ is all in all. This was a glorious instance of the wolf's dwelling with the lamb, and the leopard's lying down with the kid.
(3.) The next thing to be observed is the success there was of the gospel in calling the Gentiles. This was a great and glorious dispensation of divine providence, much spoken of in the prophecies of the Old Testament, and spoken of by the apostles, time after time, as a most glorious event of Christ's redemption. This was begun in the conversion of Cornelius and his family, greatly to the admiration of Peter, who was used as the instrument of it, and of those who were with him, and of those who were informed of it; as you may see, Acts x. and xi. And the next instance of it that we have any account of, was in the conversion of great numbers of Gentiles in Cyprus, and Cyrene, and Antioch, by the disciples that were scattered abroad by the persecution which arose about Stephen, as we have an account in Acts xi. 19, 20, 21. And presently upon this the disciples began to be called Christians first at Antioch, verse 26.
And after this, vast multitudes of Gentiles were converted in many different parts of the world, chiefly by the ministry of the Apostle Paul, a glorious pour