« הקודםהמשך »
enter in the great, the noble, the honourable; yea, the rulers, the princes, the kings of the earth. Last of all, the wise and learned, the men of genius, the philosophers, will be convinced that they are fools; will be “converted, and become as little children,” and “enter into the kingdom of God.”
20. Then shall be fully accomplished to the house of Israel, the spiritual Israel, of whatever people or nation, that gracious promise; “I will put my laws in their minds, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother; saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their ur righteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Then shall “the times of [universal] refreshment come from the presence of the Lord.” The grand “pentecost” shall “fully come,” and “devout men in every nation under heaven,” however distant in place from each other, shall “all be filled with the Holy Ghost;” and they will “continue steadfast in the apostles' doctrine, and in the fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers;” they will “eat their meat,” and do all that they have to do, “with gladness and singleness of heart. Great grace will be upon them all;” and they will be “all of one heart and of one soul.” The natural, necessary consequence of this will be the same as it was in the beginning of the Christian church: “None of them will say, that aught of the things which he possesses is his own; but they will have all things common. Neither will there be any among them that want: for as many as are possessed of lands or houses, will sell them ; and distribution will be made to every man, according as he has need.” All their desires, meantime, and passions, and tempers, will be cast in one mould ;, while all are doing the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven. All their “conversation will be seasoned with salt,” and will “minister grace to the hearers;” seeing it will not be so much they that speak, “as the Spirit of their Father that speaketh in them.” And there will be no “root of bitterness springing up,” either to defile or trouble them: there will be no Ananias or Sapphira, to bring back the cursed love of money among them: there will be no partiality; no “widows neglected in the daily ministration:” Consequently, there will be no temptation to any murmuring thought, or unkind word of one against another; while,
“They all are of one heart and soul,
21. The grand stumbling block being thus happily removed out of the way, namely, the lives of the Christians; the Mohammedans will look upon them with other eyes, and begin to give attention to their words. And as their words will be clothed with divine energy, attended with the demonstration of the Spirit and power, those of them that fear God will soon take knowledge of the spirit whereby the Christians speak. They will “receive with meekness the engrafted word,” and will bring forth fruit with patience. From them the leaven will soon spread to those who, till then, had no fear of God before their eyes. Observing the Christian dogs, as they used to term them, to have changed their nature; to be sober, temperate, just, benevolent; and that, in spite of all provocations to the contrary; from admiring their lives, they will surely be led to consider and embrace their doctrine. And then the Saviour of sinners will say, “The hour is come; I will glorify my Father: I will seek and save the sheep that were wandering on the dark mountains. Now will I avenge myself of my enemy, and pluck the prey out of the lion's teeth. I will resume my own, for ages lost: I will claim the purchase of my blood.” So he will go forth in the greatness of his strength, and all his enemies shall flee before him. All the prophets of lies shall vanish away, and all the nations that had followed them shall acknowledge the Great Prophet of the Lord, “mighty in word and deed;” and “shall honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” 22. And then the grand stumbling block being removed from the heathen nations also: the same Spirit will be poured out upon them, even those that remain in the uttermost parts of the sea. The poor American savage will no more ask, “What are the Christians better than us?”—when they see their steady practice of universal temperance, and of justice, mercy, and truth. The Malabarian heathen will have no more room to say, “Christian man take my wife: Christian man much drunk : Christian man kill man! Devil-Christian / Me no Christian.” Rather, seeing how far the Christians exceed their own countrymen in whatsoever things are lovely and of good report, they will adopt a very different language, and say, Angel-Christian / The holy lives of the Christians will be an argument they will not know how to resist : seeing the Christians steadily and uniformly practise what is agreeable to the law written in their own hearts, their prejudices will quickly die away, and they will gladly receive “the truth as it is in Jesus.” 23. We may reasonably believe, that the heathen nations which are mingled with the Christians, and those that, bordering upon Christian nations, have constant and familiar intercourse with them, will be some of the first who learn to worship God in spirit and in truth; those, for instance, that live on the continent of America, or in the islands that have received colonies from Europe. Such are likewise all those inhabitants of the East Indies, that adjoin to any of the Christian settlements. To these may be added, numerous tribes of Tartars, the heathen parts of the Russias, and the inhabitants of Norway, Finland, and Lapland. Probably these will be followed by those more distant nations with
whom the Christians trade; to whom they will impart what is of
infinitely more value than earthly pearls, or gold and silver. The God of love will then prepare his messengers, and make a way into the polar regions; into the deepest recesses of America, and into the interior parts of Africa; yea, into the heart of China and Japan, with the countries adjoining them. And “their sound” will then “go forth into all lands, and their voice to the ends of the earth !” - . . 24. But one considerable difficulty still remains: there are very many heathen nations in the world, that have no intercourse, either by trade
or any other means, with Christians of any kind. Such are the inha-.
bitants of the numerous islands in the South sea, and probably in all large branches of the ocean. Now what shall be done for these poor outcasts of men “How shall they believe,” saith the apostle, “in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher ?” You may add, “And how shall they preach, unless they
A ... *
be sent?” Yea, but is not God able to send them 7 Cannot he raise
and goodness of God, taken from the present state of the world. It will not always be thus: these things are only permitted for a season by the great Governor of the world, that he may draw immense, eternal good out of this temporary evil. This is the very key which the apostle himself gives us in the words above recited: “God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” In view of this glorious event, how well may we cry out; “ Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” although for a season “his judgments were unsearchable, and his ways past finding out,” Rom. xi, 32, 33. It is enough, that we are assured of this one point, that all these transient evils will issue well, will have a happy conclusion; and that “mercy first and last will reign.” All unprejudiced persons may see with their eyes, that he is already renewing the face of the earth: and we have strong reason to hope that the work he hath begun, he will carry on unto the day of the Lord Jesus; that he will never intermit this blessed work of his Spirit, until he has fulfilled all his promises, until he hath put a period to sin, and misery, and infirmity, and death, and re-established universal holiness and happiness, and caused all the inhabitants of the earth to sing together, “Hallelujah, the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth !” “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever !” Rev. vii, 12.
SERMON LXIX.—The JNew Creation.
“Behold, I make all things new,” Rev. xxi, 5.
1. WHAT a strange scene is here opened to our view! How remote from all our natural apprehensions ! Not a glimpse of what is here revealed was ever seen in the heathen world. Not only the modern, barbarous, uncivilized heathens have not the least conception of it; but it was equally unknown to the refined, polished heathens of ancient Greece and Rome. And it is almost as little thought of or understood by the generality of Christians: I mean, not barely those that are nominally such; that have the form of godliness without the power; but even those that in a measure fear God, and study to work righteousness.
2. It must be allowed, that after all the researches we can make, still our knowledge of the great truth, which is delivered to us in these words, is exceedingly short and imperfect. As this is a point of mere revelation, beyond the reach of all our natural faculties, we cannot penetrate far into it, nor form any adequate conception of it. But it may be an encouragement to those who have, in any degree, tasted of the powers of the world to come, to go as far as they ean go; interpreting scripture by scripture, according to the analogy of faith.
3. The apostle, caught up in the visions of God, tells us, in the first verse of the chapter, “ i saw a new heaven and a new earth;” and adds, verse 5, “He that sat upon the throne said,” [I believe the only words which he is said to utter throughout the whole book, “Behold, I make all things new.”
4. Very many commentators entertain a strange opinion, that this relates only to the present state of things; and gravely tell us, that the words are to be referred to the flourishing state of the church, which commenced after the heathen persecutions. Nay, some of them have discovered, that all which the apostle speaks concerning the “new heaven and the new earth” was fulfilled when Constantine the Great poured in riches and honours upon the Christians. What a miserable way is this of making void the whole counsel of God, with regard to all that grand chain of events, in reference to his church, yea, and to all mankind, from the time that John was in Patmos, unto the end of the world ! Nay, the line of this prophecy reaches farther still: it does not end with the present world, but shows us the things that will come to pass when this world is no more. For, 5. Thus saith the Creator and Governor of the universe; “Behold, I make all things new ;”—all which are included in that expression of the apostle: “A new heaven and a new earth.” A new heaven: the original word in Genesis, chap. i, is in the plural number: and indeed this is the constant language of Scripture; not heaven, but heavens. Accordingly, the ancient Jewish writers are accustomed to reckon three heavens; in conformity to which, the apostle Paul speaks of his being caught “up into the third heaven.” It is this, the third heaven, which is usually supposed to be the more immediate residence of God; so far as any residence can be ascribed to his omnipresent Spirit, who pervades and fills the whole universe. It is here, (if we speak after the manner of men,) that the Lord sitteth upon his throne, surrounded by angels and archangels, and by all his flaming ministers.” 6. We cannot think that this heaven will undergo any change, any more than its great Inhabitant. Surely this palace of the Most High was the same from eternity, and will be world without end. Only the inferior heavens are liable to change; the highest of which we usually call the starry heavens. This, St. Peter informs us, “is reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment, and destruction of ungodly men.” In that day, “being on fire,” it shall, first, “shrivel as a parchment scroll;” then it “shall be dissolved, and shall pass away with a great noise;” lastly, it shall “flee from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and there shall be found no place for it.” 7. At the same time, “the stars shall fall from heaven;” the secret chain being broken which had retained them in their several orbits, from the foundation of the world. In the mean while the lower, or sublunary heaven, with the elements, (or principles that compose it,) “shall melt with servent heat;” while “the earth, with the works that are therein, shall be burned up.” This is the introduction to a far nobler state of things, such as it has not yet entered into the heart of man to conceive, the universal restoration, which is to succeed the universal destruction. For “we look,” says the apostle, “for new. heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” 2 Pet. iii, 7, &c. 8. One considerable difference there will undoubtedly be in the starry heaven, when it is created anew : there will be no blazing stars, no comets there. Whether thosc horrid, eccentric orbs are halfformed planets, in a chaotic state, (I speak on the supposition of a plurality of worlds,) or such as have undergone their general conflagration, they will certainly have no place in the new heaven, where all will be exact order and harmony. There may be many other differ