« AnteriorContinuar »
garment, and the worm has eaten them like wool; but God's church remains."
Never were there so many and so potent endeavours to destroy any thing else, as there has been to destroy the church. Other kingdoms and societies of men, which have appeared to be ten times as strong as the church, have been destroyed with an hundredth part of the opposition which the church of God has met with which shows, that it is God who has been its protector. For it is most plain, that it has not upheld itself by its own strength. For the most part, it has been a very weak society. The children of Israel were but a handful of people, in comparison of the many who often sought their overthrow. So in Christ's time, and in the beginning of the Christian church, they were but a remnant: whereas the whole multitude of the Jewish nation were against them. And so in the beginning of the Gentile church, they were but a small number in comparison with the heathen, who sought their overthrow. In the dark times of Antichrist, before the Reformation, they were but a handful; and yet their enemies could not overthrow them. And commonly, the enemies of the church have not only had the greatest number on their side, but they have had the strength in other respects. They have commonly had all the civil authority on their side. So in Egypt, the civil authority was for the Egyptians, and the church were only their slaves, and in their hands; and yet they could not overthrow them. And so it was in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, and Julian the apostate, the authority was all on the side of the persecutors, and the church was under their dominion; yet all their cruelty could not extirpate it. And for a great many ages, the civil authority was all on the side of Antichrist, and the church seemed to be in their hands.
And not only has the strength of its enemies been greater than that of the church, but ordinarily the church has not used what strength they have had in their own defence, but have In the time of the committed themselves wholly to God. Jewish persecutions before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and of the Heathen persecutions before Constantine, the Christians did not pretend to make any forcible resistance to their Heathen persecutors. So it has been for the most part under the Popish persecutions; and yet they have never been able to overthrow the church of God; but it stands to this very day.
And this is still the more exceeding wonderful, if we consider how often the church has been brought to the brink of ruin, and the case seemed to be desperate. In the time of the old world, when wickedness so prevailed as that but one family was left, yet God wonderfully appeared, and overthrew the wicked world with a flood, and preserved his church. At the 49
Red sea, when Pharaoh and his host thought they were quite sure of their prey, God appeared, destroyed them, and delivered his church. Under the tenth and last Heathen persecution, their persecutors boasted that now they had done the business for the Christians, and overthrown the Christian church; yet in the midst of their triumph, the Christian church rises out of the dust and prevails, and the Heathen empire totally falls before it. So when the Christian church seemed ready to be swallowed up by the Arian heresy, when Antichrist rose and prevailed, and all the world wondered after the beast; when the church for many hundred years was reduced to a small number, and the power of the world was engaged to destroy those little remnants; yet they could never fully accomplish their design, and at last God wonderfully revived his church by the Reformation, made it to stand as it were on its feet in the sight of its enemies, and raised it out of their reach. And when the Popish powers plotted the overthrow of the Reformed church, and seemed just about to bring their matters to a conclusion, then God wonderfully appeared for the deliverance of his church, as at the Revolution by King William. Presently after the darkest times, God has made his church most gloriously to flourish.
If such a preservation of the church of God, from the beginning of the world hitherto, attended with such circumstances, is not sufficient to show a divine hand in favour of it, what can be devised that would be sufficient? But if this be from the divine hand, then God owns the church, and owns that revelation and those scriptures on which she is built; and so it will follow, that their religion is the true religion, or God's religion, and that the scriptures, which they make their rule, are his word.
3. We may draw this further argument for the divine authority of the scriptures from what has been said, viz. that God has fulfilled those things which are foretold in the scriptures.I have already observed in general, as I went along, how the prophecies of scripture were fulfilled: I shall now single out but two instances of the fulfilment of scripture-prophecy.
(1.) One is in preserving his church from being ruined. I have just now shown what an evidence this is of the divine authority of the scriptures in itself considered; I now speak of it as a fulfilment of scripture-prophecy. This is abundantly foretold and promised in the scriptures; particularly in the text. There it is foretold, that other things shall fail, other kingdoms and monarchies, which set themselves in opposition, should come to nothing: "The moth should eat them up like a garment, and the worm should eat them like wool." It is here foretold, that God's covenant-mercy to his church should
continue forever; and so it hath hitherto proved, though the church has passed through so many dangers. The same is promised, Isa. liv. 17. "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment, thou shalt condemn." And again, Isa. xlix. 14, 15, 16. "But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands, thy walls are continually before me." The same is promised in Isa. lix. 21. Ixiii. 1, 2. and Zech. xii. 2, 3. So Christ promised the same, when he says, "On this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Now if this be not from God, and the scriptures be not the word of God, and the church of Christ built on the foundation of this word be not of God, how could the persons who foretold this, know it? for if the church were not of God, it was a very unlikely thing ever to come to pass. For they foretold great opposition and dangers, that other kingdoms should come to nought, and that the church should often be almost swallowed up; and yet that the church should remain. Now how could they foresee so unlikely a thing but by divine inspiration?
(2.). The other remarkable instance is, the fulfilment of scripture-prophecy, concerning Antichrist. The way that this Antichrist should arise, is foretold, viz. by the falling away of the Christian church into a corrupt state: 2 Thess. ii. 3. “ For that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."And it is prophesied, that this man of sin should set himself up in the temple or visible church of God, pretending to be vested with divine power, as head of the church, (ver. 4.) And all this is exactly come to pass in the church of Rome. Again it is intimated, that the rise of Antichrist should be gradual, (ver. 7.) "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way." This also came to pass.- Again, it is prophesied of this mighty enemy of the Christian church, that he should be a great prince or monarch of the Roman empire: so he is represented in Daniel as a horn of the fourth beast, or fourth monarchy, as the angel himself explains it, (Daniel vii.) This also came to pass. -Yea it is prophesied, that the seat of this pretended vicar of God, and head of the church, should be the city of Rome itself. It is said expressly, that the spiritual whore, or false church, should have her seat on seven mountains or hills: Rev. xvii. 9. "The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth:" and (ver. 18.) "The woman which thou sawest, is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the
earth;" which it is certain was at that time the city of Rome. This prophecy also has come to pass.
Further, it was prophesied, that this Antichrist should reign over peoples and multitudes, and nations, and tongues, Rev. xvii. 15; and that all the world should wonder after the beast, Rev. xiii. 3. This also was verified in the church of Rome. It was foretold that this Antichrist should be remarkable for the sin of pride, pretending to great things, and assuming very much to himself: (2 Thess. ii. 4.) "That he should exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped." So Rev. xiii. 5. "And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things, and blasphemies." Dan. vii. 8, 20. the little horn is said to have a mouth speaking very great things, and his look to be more stout than his fellows. This also was verified in the Pope, and the church of Rome.-It was also prophesied, that Antichrist should be an exceeding cruel persecutor, Dan. vii. 21. The same horn "made war with the saints, and prevailed against them:" Rev. xiii. 7. "And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them." Rev. vii. 6. "And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." This also came to pass in the church of Rome.-It was foretold, that Antichrist should excel in craft and policy: Dan. vii. 8. "In this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man." And ver. 20. “ Even of that horn that had eyes." This also marks the church of Rome. -It was foretold that the kings of Christendom should be subject to Antichrist; Rev. xvii. 12, 13. "And the ten horns which thou sawest, are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but received power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast." This also came to pass with respect to the Romish church.
-It was foretold, that he should perform pretended miracles and lying wonders: 2 Thess. ii. 9. "Whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders." Rev. xiii. 13, 14. "And he doth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth, in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth, by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast." This also designates the church of Rome. Fire coming down from heaven seems to have reference to their excommunications, which were dreaded like fire from heaven.-It was foretold, that he should forbid to marry, and to abstain from meats: 1 Tim. iv. 3. "Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving." This also is exatly fulfilled in the church of Rome. It was foretold, that he should be very rich, and arrive at a great degrce of earthly splendour and glory: Rev. xvii. 4. "And the woman was arrayed in purple, and scarlet colour, and decked
with gold and precious stones, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand." And so chap. xviii. 7, 12, 13, 16. What can more expressly describe the church of Rome?-It was foretold, that he should forbid any to buy or sell, but those that had his mark: Rev. xiii. 17. "And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." This also is fulfilled in the church of Rome.-It was foretold, that he should sell the souls of men, Rev. xviii. 13, where, in enumerating the articles of his merchandise, the souls of men are specifically mentioned as one. Is not this also exactly fulfilled in the same church ?-It was foretold that Antichrist would not suffer the bodies of God's people to be buried: Rev. xi. 8, 9. "And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city,-and they-shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves." How literally has this come to pass with respect to the church of Rome!-I might mention many other things which were foretold of Antichrist, and show that they were fulfilled most exactly in the Pope and the church of Rome. How strong an argument is this, that the scriptures are the word of God!
II. From what has been said, we may learn what the spirit of true Christians is, viz. a spirit of suffering. Seeing God has so ordered it in his providence, that his church should for so long a time be in a suffering state, yea, often in a state of extreme suffering, we may conclude that the spirit of the true church is a suffering spirit, otherwise God never would have ordered for it so much suffering; for doubtless God accommodates the state and circumstances of the church to the spirit that he has given her. No wonder therefore that Christ so much inculcated upon his disciples, that "they must deny themselves, and take up their cross if they would follow him." And what spirit has the church shown and exercised under her sufferings? She has actually, under those terrible persecutions through which she has passed, rather chosen to undergo those dreadful torments, and to sell all for the pearl of great price; to suffer all that her bitterest enemies could inflict, than to renounce Christ and his religion. History affords a great number of remarkable instances, sets in view a great cloud of witnesses. This abundantly confirms the necessity of possessing a spirit to sell all for Christ, to renounce our own case, our own worldly profit, our honour, and our all, for him, and for the gospel.
Let us inquire, whether we are of such a spirit. How does it prove upon trial? Does it prove in fact that we are willing to deny ourselves, and renounce our own worldly interest, and to pass through the trials to which we are called in providence? Alas, how small are our trials, compared with those of many