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the other endings of the old state of things; till at length the very outward frame of the world itself shall come to an end; and the church shall dwell in heaven, which will be a new habitation. Then shall the utmost be accomplished that is meant by the new heavens and the new earth. (See Rev. xxi. 1.)
The end of God's creating the world, was to prepare a kingdom for his Son, (for he is appointed heir of the world,) which should remain to all eternity. So far as the kingdom of Christ is set up in the world, so far is the world brought to its end, and the eternal state of things set up-so far are all the great changes and revolutions in the world brought to their everlasting issue, and all things come to their ultimate period-so far are the waters of the long channel of divine providence, which has so many branches, and so many windings, emptied into their proper ocean, which they have been seeking from the beginning 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 changeable 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 called by that name. They seem to have taken their expectation and the name chiefly from the 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 chap. vii. 13, 14.
Now this kingdom of heaven is that evangelical state of things in the 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; as the Babylonish, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman monarchies. But Christ came to set up the last, which is not an earthly kingdom, but an heavenly, 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 is accomplished in various steps from that time to the end of the world. Sometimes by the kingdom of heaven, is meant not only that spiritual state of
the church which began soon after Christ's resurrection; but also that more perfect state 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. So 1 Cor. xv. 50. "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 first is Christ's appearing in those wonderful dispensations of providence in the apostle's days, in setting up his kingdom and destroying its enemies, 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 kingdom." (And 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, (Rev. vi. at the latter end.) The third is that which is to be accomplished at ths destruction of Antichrist. This also is represented as Christ's coming in his kingdom in the 7th chapter of Daniel, and in other places. 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. 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, were types of his first coming.As Christ's last coming to judgment is accompanied with the 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 through the preaching of the gospel. 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. 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 favour
to his church. 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; (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 a great opposition to the church; before the first, by the Jews: before the second, in Constantine's time, by the Heathen; 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. The first, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, was attended with bringing the church into the glorious state of the gospel. The second, which was in Constantine's time, was accompanied with an advancement of the church into a state of liberty from persecution, the countenance of civil authority, and her triumph over Heathen persecutors. The third, which shall be at the downfall of Antichrist, will be accompanied with an advancement of the church into that state of the glorious prevalence and truth, liberty, peace, and joy, which 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 heaven.
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; 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, and a beginning of new heavens and a new earth; or an end of a temporal 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 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 him. And there was given him 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 accomplished by several steps.
4. 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. 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 in the prophesies of Daniel, and in the 24th chapter of Matthew, where some things seem more applicable to one of them, and others to another.
Thus it appears, 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 resurrec tion to the end of the world.
5. The great providences of God between these four events, are to make way for the kingdom and glory of Christ in the great event following. Those dispensations of providence towards the church 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 after that, till the destruction of Antichrist, and the beginning of the glorious times of the church which follow, seem all calculated to prepare the way for the greater glory of Christ and his church in that event; and the following ones to the end of the world, seem to be for the greater manifestation of Christ's glory at the consummation of all things. Thus I thought it needful to observe those things in general concerning this last period, before I take notice of particular providences by which the
work of redemption is carried on through this period, in their order.
Before I proceed, I will briefly answer an INQUIRY, viz. Why the setting up of Christ's kingdom after his humiliation, should be so gradual, 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 his wisdom may be seen in it; and particularly in these two things.
1. In this way the glory of God's wisdom, is more visible to the observation of creatures. If it had been done at once, 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 accom, plished, 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 of events, that the glory of his perfection may be seen, in par ticular successive manifestations. If all that glory which appears in these events had been manifested at once, it would have been too much for us; it would have overpowered our sight and capacities.
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 subtilty 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 subtilty 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.-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.
How Christ was capacitated for effecting his purpose.
As the incarnation of Christ was necessary in order to his being in a near capacity for the purchase of redemption; so his resurrection and ascension were requisite in order to the success of his purchase.