Page images

could never fully clear up to their satisfaction, that they loved God; nor arrive at a settled persuasion, that they were loved of him; who, when the " books shall be opened," will know, to their unspeakable joy, that "their names" also" were written in the book of life," Rev. xx. 12. There will be a great number, who here on earth were despised of men, and lived in mean condition; who will be owned by Christ for his people, as having been resigned, contented, thankful in the circumstances allotted them by Divine Providence. There will be many, who had honoured the Lord with their substance, who "clothed the naked, fed the hungry, visited the sick," and spoke comfortably to those who were cast down. There will be many, who had gone through great tribulation, who laboured and did not faint; a noble and numerous company of martyrs and confessors, who took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, or laid down their lives in testimony to the truth.

Will not this multitude of such persons reflect honour upon him, by whom they were redeemed; through whose means they were carried safe through the temptations of this world, and were enabled to persevere to the end, notwithstanding the difficulties they met with? If it be true, as it certainly is, that "they who are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever," Dan. xii. 3. how glorious is Jesus, the source of this wisdom, the spring of this zeal for truth and virtue!

2. Secondly, we are to consider, what perfections in Christ will then be glorified, and appear illustrious: and it is reasonable to suppose, that his wisdom, his power, and his faithfulness will then be very conspicuous.

1.) His wisdom. The preaching of the cross has appeared foolishness to many in this world: but then it will be manifest, beyond the possibility of farther doubt and question, that "the foolishness of God," 1 Cor. i. 25. that divine dispensation, which many had despised, was wiser than all the wisdom of men. Some indeed, yea, not a few, do now perceive and acknowledge it to be a well-laid design, admirably suited to the weakness and degeneracy of the human nature: and they are ready to say with the apostle: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!" and that " God hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence." But at that time, the contrivance of this dispensation will still more appear wonderful. It will be manifest, particularly in the great number of the saints then collected, and brought together VOL. IX.



in one, from the several parts of the world; to whom "Christ has been made of God, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption," 1 Cor. i. 30.

It is indeed a vast and delightful scene of contemplation, which will then lie open to the saints; to observe the original design, several steps, continued progress, and final completion of the recovery and salvation of so many frail and sinful men, by Jesus Christ; and to observe the extent of his government of the church, and the world in general in the several parts and ages of it, from the time of his exaltation to the right hand of the throne of God, to that great and glorious day, when all mankind are brought before his tribunal.

2.) At that time the power of Christ will be glorified. It will appear great and wonderful in the resurrection of the saints, just performed by his word. This is what our Lord spoke of, as so marvellous, in answer to some cavils of the Jews: "For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doth: and he will show him greater things than these, that ye may marvel: for as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will- -Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation," John v. 20-29.


3.) Another perfection, to be glorified at that time, is the truth or faithfulness of Christ. This is the day for the full accomplishment of all his promises, upon which his people have depended, and by which they have been animated in the whole of their course. Here he delivered rules of life, and made gracious promises to such as obeyed them. He encouraged men to forsake all earthly goods for his sake and the gospel's, assuring them of abundant recompense hereafter. In his conference with Nicodemus he useth these expressions: Verily I say unto thee: we speak what we do know, and testify that we have seen." John iii. 11. In his preaching he publicly declared with the greatest solemnity: "This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day: and this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day," John vi. 39, 40. Once more, he says to his disciples: "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told

you," ch. xiv. 2. Upon the ground of a clear conviction of his divine authority and character, which he claimed; and a persuasion of the truth of all his declarations and promises, his people have acted as they have done. They have given themselves up to him, and obeyed him. They have been induced to seek principally such things as are now distant and unseen; and not to prefer, but oftentimes to forego the pleasures, possessions, and honours of this present world, and every thing desirable therein, in hope of being raised up by him to immortal life and everlasting happiness. So they have acted: so they have believed, and trusted in him: and now his truth is manifest in the event. Those things, which were once the objects of desire and hope, are possessed and enjoyed. His faithfulness was believed before, and there was good evidence of the truth of all he said; and they who depended upon it, acted wisely and reasonably: but now it is even seen. Not one jot or tittle of his word has fallen to the ground, but all is fulfilled. Not one of those little ones whom men despised, has perished; whom he had assured, that it was the good pleasure of the Father to give them a kingdom. Not one of those, whom the Father had given him, is wanting, but all his sheep are placed at his right hand.

His truth and faithfulness may be farther illustrated, at that time, by the peculiar degrees of honour and glory conferred upon those, whose virtue has been eminent, and tried by great difficulties and sufferings here. Many indeed, and great are the encouragements, which he gave in the course of his ministry to those who should be eminent, steadfast, and constant in virtue; and future rewards will certainly be answerable to those encouraging declarations, and the hopes he has raised by them. "Blessed are ye," says he," when inen shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil of you, falsely, for my sake: rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven," Matt. v. 11, 12. When the disciples desired to know, who should be " greatest in the kingdom of heaven," ch. xviii. 1, 4. he did not deny that there would be distinctions therein: but intimates, that he who should be most humble, and for the sake of truth and the good of mankind most abase himself, would in the end be most exalted, and be "greatest in the kingdom of heaven." When the two disciples petitioned, "to sit, the one on the right hand, and the other on the left, in his kingdom," he did not grant their request; assuring them it was not a thing to be determined by him, upon the ground of any personal regards and considerations. Nevertheless

he adds: "It shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father," Matt. xx. 23. and he insinuates to them, that one way of being nearest to him in his glory, is to "drink of his cup, and be baptized with the baptism, with which he was to be baptized;" that is, to suffer in testimony to truth, if called thereto. In figurative expressions he pronounces a special blessing upon men of uniform virtue and obedience. "Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when he cometh shall find watching. Verily, I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them," Luke xii. 37. When Thomas, upon the ground of an overbearing evidence, admitted the truth of his resurrection, our Lord graciously accepted the profession of faith which he made: but at the same time, he breaks forth into a superior commendation of such as should be better disposed to truth. "Jesus saith unto him: Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they which have not seen, and yet have believed," John xx. 29.

Agreeable hereto are many declarations of the apostles. "For," says St. Paul," our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." 2 Cor. iv. 17. And St. Peter: "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, may be found unto praise and honour and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ," 1 Pet. i. 7. that is, they who when tried by difficulties and sufferings in the cause of truth, are not thereby overcome, but still continue faithful, and are only more and more refined and sanctified, shall receive abundance of honour and praise at the appearance of Jesus Christ.

Hereby the Lord will be glorified; when the truth and equity of his judgment shall be manifest in rewards, proportioned to his declarations, and the great hopes he had raised in the minds of the sincere and upright. The cause of virtue is then completely vindicated by him. Every instance of right conduct is recompensed: and the most eminent virtue, which here on earth is sometimes exposed to the greatest difficulties, and the worst reproaches, receives an equal reward. This is glorious to the Judge of the world.

These are perfections of Christ, which are glorified by the perfect holiness, external glory, and great number of his people: for, as the apostle says, " Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice in it," 1 Cor. xii. 26. so

also is Christ, the head, honoured and glorified in the honour of each saint, much more in the honour and glory of the whole church, which is his body. This is the day, when good men, of all ages and nations, of every rank and condition, of different capacities and attainments, who have lived under the several dispensations of reason and revelation, make up one visible and harmonious assembly. Nor is there any longer one member of the church suffering, or tempted: all have finished their course, and their warfare is accomplished. In the style of the Revelation, "they are clothed in white robes, with palms in their hands," Rev. vii. 9. the ensigns of victory and triumph.

It is then a day glorious to Christ, and a day of unspeakable joy to his people. He must be honoured and revered by those also, to whom his appearance is not joyful: for all the unjust neglect and contempt of him and his people are for ever confuted and put to shame; and a full conviction is wrought in the minds of all, concerning the reasonableness of the gracious promises formerly made in favour of virtue, and the great rewards now conferred upon it.

It is, moreover, reasonable to suppose, that at this time, Christ will be very glorious in the esteem of the blessed angels, and all orders of intelligent beings: for the angels are said to be " ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them, who shall be heirs of salvation," Heb. i. 14. and they "desired to look into those things," 1 Pet. i. 12. that were done at the publication of the gospel. It may be therefore justly concluded, that they likewise partake in the joy and acclamations of this day; and that in their eyes, as well as in those of his people, Christ is glorified: especially since they are spoken of as present at this time, and coming as attendants on the Judge of the world. See Rev. v. 11-14.

Prop. III. When Christ comes again, he will be admired, particularly, by all them that believe. Three things will appear admirable at that time: Christ's personal glory, the greatness of his love in what he has done for his people, and his goodness in the kind reception he gives them, and the great reward he bestows upon them.

1. Christ's personal glory. He comes on the clouds, with an innumerable company of the heavenly inhabitants in his train: and many awful appearances there will be to increase the grandeur and solemnity of that day. There will be also the glory of his own person, suited to his real dignity, and the great characters he sustains, of the Head of the church and Judge of the world. Once, when he was on earth, in the days of his humiliation, he was gloriously

« PreviousContinue »