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which the prophets, with one voice, have promised an eternal duration · Yet St. Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, says thạt Christ's kingdom shall have an end. To reconcile which with the prophecies, we must observe that the expressions, everlasting,' for ever,' and 'without end , are used by sacred as well as profane authors, in different senses, according to the subject to which they are applied. When therefore it is said that Christ shall reign for ever, the meaning seems to be that he shall reign as long as the world lastsd: when it is said that of his kingdom there shall be no end, the meaning is that it shall not pass away like other kingdoms, and that there shall be no end of it, till the consummation of all things.
Then cometh the end, says St. Paul, when Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power; for he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy which shall be destroyed is death. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in
Christ will then have no more enemies to subdue, when death shall be destroyed, and sin shall receive its due correction : he will have no more occasion to protect and to reward his servants, when he hath raised them up to eternal life, and given them seats in his kingdom of heaven. These acts therefore of regal authority he can exercise no longer
But since Christ is, to all his faithful servants, not only a creator, but a guide and a teacher, a saviour and a mediator, a king and a judge, the benefits received from these relations which Christ bears to them are of an endless na
See Vitringa in Isai. vol. ii. p. 220. Grotius de Ver. R. C. v. 7. Blackwall, Sacr. Class. p. 149. Clarke, Serm. iv. vol. i. The compasative degree chavatutapos is used by Plato in his Phædo, and Sympos.
d In like manner it is said of Christ, that he is a priest for ever,' and hath an unchangeable priesthood,' Heb. vii. that is, he is a priest, as long as the office can subsist, as long as there are men for whom he may intercede, and whom he may reconcile to God, as long as the world endures.
? See Whitby on 2 Tim. iv. 1.
ture; and an eternal obligation will lie upon them to offer up to him the just returns of love and gratitude, of reve. rence and adoration, through all ages; according to those forms of thanksgiving in the Revelation. “Blessing and honour and glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.-Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.'
We are taught to pray daily that the kingdom of God, or of Christ, may come; in which words we pray that the gospel of Christ may flourish more and more, and that the number of his servants may increase continually. But to pray for this is not enough; we cannot indeed pray for it with any sincerity, unless we use our best endeavours to accomplish these pious wishes.
Setting aside the injudicious, inhuman, and infamous methods, by which too many have pretended to do God service, we shall find that there remain only the following ways by which we may promote the enlargement of our Lord's kingdom; and they are ways in which every Christian, more or less, is capable of performing his part.
First, an endeavour to understand the gospel, that we may be able to teach those who are committed to our care and placed under our authority, to remove the doubts of the unstable, to dispel the errors of the mistaken, and to answer the objections of adversaries.
Secondly, a readiness to countenance and assist any attempt which is made to propagate the gospel, or to instruct the young, the poor and the ignorant, when we have reason to hope that they shall be instructed in the religion of Christ, not in fanaticism and enthusiasm.
Thirdly, a disposition to think and speak favourably of those who believe in the same Lord and Master with us, though their belief be not exactly conformable to ours, especially when they think and speak favourably of us".
Fourthly, rational notions of the gospel, which will teach us to represent it as a religion in which all things
? Taylor, Libert. of Proph.
necessary to be believed or done are delivered with sufficient clearness, as a religion which consists principally in purity of heart, in morality, in goodness, in righteousness, in the love of God and of mankind, as a religion in which charity takes the upper hand of faith and hope and knowledge, and is the most excellent of all accomplishments 6.
Lastly, a life conformable to the religion which we profess, which would do more towards recommending our Christian faith to the bulk of mankind, than all that we can say in behalf of it. The want of this hath been an impediment to the progress of Christianity, a scandal and a stumbling-block in the way of unbelievers.
They object to us, that since we say and do not, either our religion is impracticable, or we believe nothing of it, and by our behaviour acknowledge it to be false.
To which we might make more than one reply;
We might say that the heart and the understanding of man are frequently at variance; that he often acts contrary to his judgment and conscience; and therefore it must not hastily be concluded that he rejects the doctrines which he does not practise.
We might say that every age which has passed since our Saviour's time, especially the earliest ages of the church, afforded eminent examples of Christian piety.
We might say that religion is what it is in itself; must stand, if it stand, by its own intrinsic merit, and by the evidence which accompanies it ; that its truth and value are
8 Tárra rà dvaynara og ha. Chrysost. Hom. 36. in 1 ad Cor.
Non multum tibi nocebit transisse quæ nec licet scire, nec prodest. Involuta veritas in alto latet. Nec de malignitate Naturæ queri possumus : quia nullius rei difficilis inventio est, nisi cujus hic unus inventæ fructus est, invenisse. Quicquid nos meliores beatosque facturum est, aut in aperto, aut in proximo posuit. Seneca de Benef. vii. 1.
Ne curiosus quære caussas omnium,
no more lessened by the ill use which men nrake of it, than the beams of the sun are diminished, when we shut our eyes to his light.
We might say that Christianity, though it produceth not all the happy effects which were to be wished, yet prevents and restrains many evils, and is the cause of much good in the world, as we have already showed in several in. stances.
But the best answer of all would be to forsake our sins and amend our ways; and then our good actions would speak for us, and wipe off this imputation cast upon our faith and our religion.
It was a singular honour and advantage to the cause of Christianity, that its antient writers ", in their apologies for it, could address themselves to the Romans in such words as these; “We are grown so many in number, that, if we were only to withdraw ourselves from your dominions, we should ruin you, you could not subsist without us. Yet is our innocence as remarkable as our increase. Your jails swarm with criminals of your own religion ; but you shall not find there one Christian, unless he be there because he is a Christian, and purely on account of his faith.
Everyone who believes the gospel should consider himself as a subject of Christ's kingdom, and remember that he is not admitted into it to provide only for his own future welfare, and to neglect the interest of the society to which he belongs. He should account it his duty, his honour, and his happiness, to increase the numher of his fellow-subjects; and to this purpose he should be ready to employ his reputation, his learning, his abili. ties, his authority, and his fortunes. To turn men from sin to righteousness, and to enlarge the kingdom of Gad upon earth, is an office of such dignity and importance, that our Lord descended from heaven to execute it; and blessed is that servant, whom, when he cometh, he shall find to be, or to have been, so occupied,
THE FITNESS OF THE TIME WHEN CHRIST CAME INTO THE
WORLD, THERE are many prophecies in the Old Testament relating to the Messias, some of which point out a certain time when he should appear.
It was foretold by Haggaii and by Malachi that he should come whilst the temple stood. It was foretold by Daniel that the kingdom of the Messias should be set up in the time of the fourth kingdon, which was the Roman empire, and that he should appear about four hundred and ninety years after the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
These prophecies were accomplished in our Saviour, who honoured the temple with his presence, after whose death and according to whose prediction that temple was entirely destroyed, the Jewish government was dissolved; and a dispersion of that people ensued which still continues.
At the time of his appearance there was a general expectation amongst the Jews of a Messias. In the New Testament mention is made of persons who waited for the consolation of Israel, who looked for redemption in Jerusalem, who thought that the kingdom of God, or of the Messias, should immediately appear. We find that it was the judgment of the learned also, of the chief priests and scribes. When John the Baptist entered into his ministry, the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him whether he were the Christ.
i ii. 9.
It may be objected that Christ came not whilst the second temple stood, but after the third temple had been built by Herod, and that consequently the prophecy of Haggai was not accomplished in himn. But the Jews always accounted Herod's temple as the second temple, and always called it so; and what Herod did, might well be deemed rather a repairing and improving of the second temple, than the build. ing of a third, because the daily sacrifice and the service of the temple never ceased during the work, nor was it taken down all at once. See the commentators on Josephus Ant. xv. 11. sect. 2, 3. and Grotius on Matt. xxiv. 1, and on Malach. iii. 1. and Le Clerc, Hist. Eccl. p. 197.