FROM CHRIST’S RESURRECTION TO THE END OF THE WORLD
Having now shown how the work of redemption has been carried on from the fall of man to the present time, before I proceed any further, I would make some Application.
1. From what has been said, we may see great evidence of the truth of the Christian religion, and that the Scriptures are the Word of God. There are three arguments of this, which I shall take notice of, which may be drawn from what has been said.
(1.) It may be argued from that violent and inveterate opposition there has always appeared of the wickedness of the world against this religion. The religion that the church of God has professed from the first founding of the church after the fall to this time, has always been the same. Though the dispensations have been altered, yet the religion which the church has professed has always, as to its essentials, been the same. The church of God, from the beginning, has been one society. The Christian church which has been since Christ’s ascension, is manifestly the same society continued with the church, that was before Christ came. The Christian church is grafted on their root. They are built on the same foundation. The revelation on which both have depended, is essentially the same. For as the Christian church is built on the Holy Scriptures, so was the Jewish church, though now the Scriptures be enlarged by the addition of the New Testament. But still it is essentially the same revelation with that which was given in the Old Testament only the subjects of divine revelation are now more clearly revealed in the New Testament than they were in the Old. But the sum and substance of both the Old Testament and New, is Christ and his redemption. The religion of the church of Israel, was essentially the same religion with that of the Christian church, as evidently appears from what has been said. The ground work of the religion of the church of God, both before and since Christ has appeared, is the same great scheme of redemption by the Son of God. And so the church that was before the Israelite church, was still the same society, and it was essentially the same religion that was professed and practiced in it. Thus it was from Noah to Abraham, and thus it was before the flood. And this society of men that is called the church, has always been built or the foundation of those revelations which we have in the Scriptures, which have always been essentially the same, though gradually increasing. The church before the flood, was built on the foundation of those revelations of Christ which were given to Adam, and Abel, and Enoch, of which we have an account in the former chapters of Genesis, and others of the like import. The church after the flood, was built on the foundation of the revelations made to Noah and Abraham, to Melchisedec, Isaac, and Jacob, to Joseph, Job, and other holy men of whom we have an account in the Scriptures, or other revelations that were to the same purpose. And after this the church depended on the Scriptures themselves as they gradually increased, so that the church of God has always been built on the foundations of divine revelation, and always on those revelations that were essentially the same, and which are summarily comprehended in the Holy Scriptures, and ever since about Moses’ time have been built on the Scriptures themselves.
So that the opposition which has been made to the church of God in all ages, has always been against the same religion, and the same revelation. Now therefore the violent and perpetual opposition that has ever been made by the corruption and wickedness of mankind against this church, is a strong argument of the truth of this religion, and this revelation, upon which the church has always been built. Contraries are well argued one from another, We may well and safely argue, that a thing is good, according to the degree of opposition in which it stands to evil, or the degree in which evil opposes it, and is an enemy to it. We may well argue, that a thing is light, by the great enmity which darkness has to it. Now it is evident, by the things which you have heard concerning the church of Christ, and that holy religion of Jesus Christ which it has professed, that the wickedness of the world has had a perpetual hatred to it, and has made most violent opposition against it.
That the church of God has always met with great opposition in the world, none can deny. This is plain by profane history as far as that reaches. And before that, divine history gives us the same account. The church of God, and its religion and worship, began to be opposed in Cain’s and Abel’s time, and was so when the earth was filled with violence in Noah’s time. And after this, how was the church opposed in Egypt! And how was the church of Israel always hated by the nations round about, agreeable to that in Jer. 12:9, “Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her.” And after the Babylonian captivity, how was this church persecuted by Antiochus Epiphanes and others! And how was Christ persecuted when he was on earth! And how were the apostles and other Christians persecuted by the Jews before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans! How violent were that people against the church! And how dreadful was the opposition of the heathen world against the Christian church after this before Constantine! How great was their spite against the true religion! And since that, how yet more violent, and spiteful, and cruel, has been the opposition of Antichrist against the church!
There is no other such instance of opposition. History gives no account of any other body of men that have been so hated, and so maliciously and insatiably pursued and persecuted, nor anything like it. No other religion ever was so maligned age after age. The nations of other professions have enjoyed their religions in peace and quietness, however they have differed from their neighbors. One nation has worshipped one sort of gods, and others another, without molesting or disturbing one another about it. All the spite and opposition has been against this religion which the church of Christ has professed. All other religions have seemed to show an implacable enmity to this. And men have seemed to have, from one age to another, such a spite against it, that they have seemed as though they could never satisfy their cruelty. They put their invention upon the rack to find out torments that should be cruel enough, and yet, after all, never seemed to be satisfied. Their thirst has never been satisfied with blood.
So that this is out of doubt, that this religion, and these Scriptures, have always been malignantly opposed in the world. The only question that remains is, What it is that has made this opposition? — Whether or not it has been good or bad? Whether it be the wickedness and corruption of the world, or not, that has done this? But of this there can be no greater doubt than of the other, if we consider how causeless this cruelty has always been, who the opposers have been, and the manner in which they have opposed. The opposition has chiefly been from heathenism and Popery, which things certainly are evil. They are both of them very evil, and the fruits of the blindness, corruption, and wickedness of men, as the very Deists themselves confess. The light of nature shows, that the religion of heathens, consisting in the worship of idols, and sacrificing their children to them, and in obscene and abominable rites and ceremonies, is wickedness. And the superstitions, and idolatries, and usurpations, of the church of Rome, are no less contrary to the light of nature. By this it appears, that this opposition which has been made against the church of God, has been made by wicked men. And with regard to the opposition of the Jews in Christ’s and the apostles’ times, it was in a most corrupt time of that nation, when the people were generally become exceeding wicked, as some of the Jewish writers themselves, as Josephus and others, who lived about that time, do expressly say. And that it has been mere wickedness that has made this opposition, is manifest from the manner of opposition, the extreme violence, injustice, and cruelty, with which the church of God has been treated. It seems to show the hand of malignant infernal spirits in it.
Now, what reason can be assigned, why the corruption and wickedness of the world should so implacably set itself against this religion of Jesus Christ, and against the Scriptures, but only that they are contrary to wickedness, and consequently are good and holy? — Why should the enemies of Christ, for so many thousand years together, manifest such a mortal hatred of this religion, but only that it is the cause of God? If the Scriptures be not the Word of God, and the religion of the church of Christ be not the true religion, then it must follow, that it is a most wicked religion, nothing but a pack of lies and abominable delusions, invented by the enemies of God themselves. And if this were so, it is not likely that the enemies of God, and the wickedness of the world, would have maintained such a perpetual and implacable enmity against it.
(2.) It is a great argument that the Christian church and its religion is from God, that it has been upheld hitherto through all the opposition and dangers it has passed through. That the church of God and the true religion, which has been so continually and violently opposed, with so many endeavors to overthrown it, and which has so often been brought to the brink of ruin, and almost swallowed up, through the greatest part of six thousand years, has yet been upheld, does most remarkably show the hand of God in favor of the church. If we consider it, it will appear one of the greatest wonders and miracles that ever came to pass. There is nothing else like it upon the face of the earth. There is no other society of men that has stood as the church has. As to the old world, which was before the flood, that was overthrown by a deluge of waters. But yet the church of God was preserved. Satan’s visible kingdom on earth was then once entirely overthrown. But the visible kingdom of Christ never has been overthrown. All those ancient human kingdoms and monarchies of which we read, and which have been in former ages, are long since come to an end. Those kingdoms of which we read in the Old Testament, of the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, etc. are all long ago come to an end. Those four great monarchies of the world have been overthrown one after another. The great empire of proud Babylon was overthrown by the Persians. And then the Persian empire was overthrown by the Greeks. After this the Grecian empire was overthrown by the Romans. And, finally, the Roman empire fell a sacrifice to various barbarous nations. Here is a remarkable fulfillment of the words of the text with respect to other things, even the greatest and most glorious of them. They have all grown old, and have vanished away, “the moth has eaten them up like a garment, and the worm has eaten them like wool,” but yet God’s church remains.
Never were there so many and so potent endeavors to destroy anything else, as there have been to destroy the church. Other kingdoms and societies of men, which have appeared to be ten times as strong as the church of God, 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 the protector of the church. 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. They have been a little flock. So they were of old. The children of Israel were but a small handful of people, in comparison of the many who often sought their overthrow. And so in Christ’s time, and in the beginning of the Christian church after Christ’s resurrection, 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. And so in the dark times of Antichrist, before the Reformation, they were but a handful. And yet their enemies could not overthrow them. And it has commonly been so, that the enemies of the church have not only had the greatest number on their side, but they have had the strength on their side in other respects. They have commonly had all the civil authority on their side. So it was in Egypt. The civil authority was on the side of the Egyptians, and the church were only their slaves, and were in their hands. And yet they could not overthrow them. And so it was in the time of the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. The authority was all on the side of the persecutors, and the church was under their dominion. And yet all their cruelty could not extirpate it. And so it was afterwards in the time of the heathen Roman government. And so it was in the time of Julian the apostate, who did his utmost to overthrow the Christian church, and to restore heathenism. And so it has been for the most part since the rise of Antichrist. 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 the enemies of the church been greater than the strength of the church, but ordinarily the church has not used what strength they have had in their own defense, but have committed themselves wholly to God. So it was in the time of the Jewish persecutions before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. And so it was in the time of the heathen persecutions before Constantine. The Christians did not only not rise up in arms to defend themselves, but they did not pretend to make any forcible resistance to their heathen persecutors. So it has for the most part been 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, and all hope gone, and they seemed to be swallowed up. 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. And so at the Red Sea, when Pharaoh and his host thought they were quite sure of their prey. Yet God appeared, and destroyed them, and delivered his church. And so was it from time to time in the church of Israel, as has been shown. So under the tenth and last heathen persecution, their persecutors boasted that now they had done the business for the Christians, and had 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. So when Antichrist rose and prevailed, and all the world wondered after the beast, and the church for many hundred years was reduced to such a small number, and seemed to be hidden, and the power of the world was engaged to destroy those little remainders of the church. Yet they could never fully accomplish their design, and at last God wonderfully revived his church in the time of the Reformation, and made it to stand as it were on its feet in the sight of its enemies, and raised it out of their reach. And so since, when the Popish powers have plotted the overthrow of the Reformed church, and have seemed just about to bring their matters to a conclusion, and to finish their design, then God has wonderfully appeared for the deliverance of his church, as it was in the time of the Revolution by King William. And so it has been from time to time. Presently after the darkest times of the church, 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 favor 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 her religion, 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 so fulfilled those things which are foretold in the Scriptures. — I have already observed, as I went along, how the prophecies of Scripture were fulfilled. I shall now therefore single out but two instances of the fulfillment 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 fulfillment of scripture prophecy. This is abundantly foretold and promised in the Scriptures, as particularly in the text. There it is foretold, that other things shall fail, other kingdoms and monarchies, which set themselves in opposition shall come to nothing, “the moth should eat them up like a garment, and the worm should eat them like wool.” And so it has in fact come to pass. But it is here foretold, that God’s covenant mercy to his church shall continue forever. And so it hath hitherto proved, though now it be so many ages since, and though the church has passed through so many dangers. The same is promised, Isa. 54:17, “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. 49:14, 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 will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” The same is promised again in Isa. 59:21, and Isa. 43:1, 2, and Zec. 12:2, 3. So Christ promises 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 the great opposition, and the great dangers, and also foretold that other kingdoms should come to naught, and that the church should often be almost swallowed up, as it were easy to show, and yet foretold that the church should remain. Now, how could they foresee so unlikely a thing but by divine inspiration?
[2.] The other remarkable instance which I shall mention of the fulfillment of Scripture prophecy, is in fulfilling what is foretold concerning Antichrist, a certain great opposer of Christ and his kingdom. And the way that this Antichrist should arise, is foretold, viz. not among the heathen, or those nations that never professed Christianity, but that he should arise by the apostasy and falling away of the Christian church into a corrupt state, 2 Thes. 2:3, “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 Antichrist, or man of sin, should be one, that should set himself up in the temple or visible church of God, pretending to be vested with the power of God himself, as head of the church, as in 2 Thes. 2:4. 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, as there, verse 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 such a great and mighty enemy of the Christian church, that he should be a great prince or monarch of the Roman empire. So he is represented as an horn of the fourth beast in Daniel, or fourth kingdom or monarchy upon earth, as the angel himself explains it, as you may see of the little horn in Daniel 7. This also came to pass. — Yea it is prophesied, that the seat of this great prince, or pretended vicar of God, and head of his church, should be in the city of Rome itself. In the 17th chapter of Revelation, it is said expressly, that the spiritual whore, or false church, should have her seat on seven mountains or hills, Rev. 17:9, “The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth:” and in the last verse of the chapter, it is said expressly, “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 in the church of Rome.
Further, it was prophesied, that this Antichrist should reign over peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues, Rev. 17:15, and that all the world should wonder after the beast, Rev. 13:3. This also came to pass in the church of Rome. It was foretold that this Antichrist should be eminent and remarkable for the sin of pride, pretending to great things, and assuming very much to himself. So in the aforementioned place in Thessalonians, “That he should exalt himself above all that is called God,” or that is worshipped. So Rev. 13:5, “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things, and blasphemies.” Dan. 7:20, 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 came to pass in the Pope, and the church of Rome. — It was also prophesied, that Antichrist should be an exceeding cruel persecutor, Dan. 7:21. The same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, Rev. 13:7, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.” Rev. 17:6, “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. 7:8, “In this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man.” And verse 20, “Even of that horn that had eyes.” This also came to pass in the church or Rome. — It was foretold, that the kings of Christendom should be subject to Antichrist, Rev. 17:12, 13, “And the ten horns which thou sawest, are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet, but receive 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 Thes. 2:9, “Whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders.” Rev. 13:13, 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 came to pass in 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 command to abstain from meats, 1 Tim. 4:3, “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God had created to be received with thanksgiving.” This also is exactly fulfilled in the church of Rome. — It was foretold, that he should be very rich, and arrive at a great degree of earthly splendor and glory, Rev. 17:4, “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 Rev. 18:7, 12, 13, 16. This also is come to pass with respect to the church of Rome. — It was foretold, that he should forbid any to buy or sell, but those that had his mark, Rev. 13:17, “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. 18:13, where, in enumerating the articles of his merchandise, the souls of men are mentioned as one. This also is exactly fulfilled in the same church. — It was foretold, that Antichrist would not suffer the bodies of God’s people to be put into graves, Rev. 11:8, 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.” This also has literally come to pass with respect to the church of Rome. — I might mention many other things which were foretold of Antichrist, or that great enemy of the church so often spoken of in Scripture, and show that they were fulfilled most exactly in the Pope and the church of Rome.
How strong an argument was this, that the Scriptures are the Word of God!
2. But I come now to a second inference, which is this, 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, for the greater part of so many ages, be in a suffering state, yea, and often in a state of such extreme suffering, we may conclude, that the spirit of the true church is a suffering spirit, otherwise God never would have ordered so much suffering for the church, for doubtless God accommodates the state and circumstances of the church to the spirit that he has given them. We see by what has been said, how many and great suffering the Christian church for the most part has been under for these 1700 years. No wonder therefore that Christ so much inculcated upon his disciples, that it was necessary, that if any would be his disciples, “they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him.”
And we may argue, that the spirit of the true church of Christ is a suffering spirit, by the spirit the church has 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 furnishes us with a great number of remarkable instances, sets in view a great cloud of witnesses. This abundantly confirms the necessity of being of a spirit to sell all for Christ, to renounce our own ease, our own worldly profit, and honor, 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 of our fellow Christians in former ages! And I would on this occasion apply that in Jer. 12:5, “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then, how canst thou contend with horses?” If you have not been able to endure the light trials to which you have been called in this age, and in this land, how would you be able to endure the far greater trials to which the church has been called in former ages? Every true Christian has the spirit of a martyr, and would suffer as a martyr, if he were called to it in providence.
3. Hence we learn what great reason we have, assuredly to expect the fulfillment of what yet remains to be fulfilled of things foretold in Scripture. The Scriptures foretell many great things yet to be fulfilled before the end of the world. But there seem to be great difficulties in the way. We seem at present to be very far from such a state as is foretold in the Scriptures, but we have abundant reason to expect, that these things, however seemingly difficult, will yet be accomplished in their season. We see the faithfulness of God to his promises hitherto. How true has God been to his church, and remembered his mercy from generation to generation! We may say concerning what God has done hitherto for his church, as Joshua said to the children of Israel, Jos. 23:14. “That not one thing hath failed of all the Lord our God hath spoken concerning his church,” but all things are hitherto come to pass, agreeable to the divine prediction. This should strengthen our faith in those promises, and encourage us, and stir us up to earnest prayer to God for the accomplishment of the great and glorious things which yet remain to be fulfilled.
It has already been shown how the success of Christ’s redemption was carried on through various periods down to the present time.
4. I come now to show how the success of Christ’s redemption will be carried on from the present time, until Antichrist is fallen, and Satan’s visible kingdom on earth is destroyed. — And with respect to this space of time, we have nothing to guide us but the prophecies of Scripture. Through most of the time from the fall of man to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, we had scripture history to guide us. And from thence to the present time we had prophecy, together with the accomplishment of it in providence, as related in human histories. But henceforward we have only prophecy to guide us. And here I would pass by those things that are only conjectural, or that are surmised by some from those prophecies which are doubtful in their interpretation, and shall insist only on those things which are more clear and evident.
We know not what particular events are to come to pass before that glorious work of God’s Spirit begins, by which Satan’s kingdom is to be overthrown. By the consent of most divines, there are but few things, if any at all, that are foretold to be accomplished before the beginning of that glorious work of God. Some think the slaying of the witnesses, Rev. 11:7, 8 is not yet accomplished. So divines differ with respect to the pouring out of the seven vials, of which we have an account Rev. 16, how many are already poured out, or how many remain to be poured out. Though a late expositor whom I have before mentioned to you, seems to make it very plain and evident, that all are already poured out but two, viz. the sixth on the river Euphrates, and the seventh into the air. But I will not now stand to inquire what is intended by the pouring out of the sixth vial on the river Euphrates, that the way of the kings of the east may be prepared, but only would say, that it seems to be something immediately preparing the way for the destruction of the spiritual Babylon, as the drying up of the river Euphrates, which ran through the midst of old Babylon, was what prepared the way of the kings of the Medes and Persians, the kings of the east, to come in under the walls, and destroy that city.
But whatever this be, it does not appear that it is anything which shall be accomplished before that work of God’s Spirit is begun, by which, as it goes on, Satan’s visible kingdom on earth shall be utterly overthrown. And therefore I would proceed directly to consider what the Scripture reveals concerning the work of God itself, by which he will bring about this great event, as being the next thing which is to be accomplished that we are certain of from the prophecies of Scripture.
And, first, I would observe two things in general concerning it.
1. We have all reason to conclude from the Scriptures, that just before this work of God begins, it will be a very dark time with respect to the interests of religion in the world. It has been so before those glorious revivals of religion that have been hitherto. It was so when Christ came. It was an exceeding degenerate time among the Jews. And so it was a very dark time before the Reformation. And not only so, but it seems to be foretold in Scripture, that it shall be a time of but little religion, when Christ shall come to set up his kingdom in the world. Thus when Christ spake of his coming to encourage his elect, who cry to him day and night, in Luke 18:8, he adds this, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, Shall he find faith on the earth?” Which seems to denote a great prevalence of infidelity just before Christ’s coming to avenge his suffering church. Though Christ’s coming at the last judgment is not here to be excluded, yet there seems to be a special respect to his coming to deliver his church from their long continued suffering persecuted state, which is accomplished only at his coming at the destruction of Antichrist. That time that the elect cry to God, as in Rev. 6:10, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” and the time spoken of in Rev. 18:20, “Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles, and prophets, for God hath avenged you on her,” will then be accomplished.
It is now a very dark time with respect to the interests of religion, and such a time as this prophesied of in this place, wherein there is but a little faith, and a great prevailing of infidelity on the earth. There is now a remarkable fulfillment of that in 2 Pet. 3:3, “Knowing this, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.” And so Jude 17, 18, “But beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.” Whether the times shall be any darker still, or how much darker, before the beginning of this glorious work of God, we cannot tell.
2. There is no reason from the Word of God to think any other, than that this great work of God will be wrought, though very swiftly, yet gradually. As the children of Israel were gradually brought out of the Babylonian captivity, first one company, and then another, and gradually rebuilt their city and temple, and as the heathen Roman empire was destroyed by a gradual, though a very swift prevalence of the gospel. So, though there are many things which seem to hold forth as though the work of God would be exceeding swift, and many great and wonderful events should very suddenly be brought to pass, and some great parts of Satan’s visible kingdom should have a very sudden fall, yet all will not be accomplished at once, as by some great miracle, as the resurrection of the dead at the end of the world will be all at once. But this is a work which will be accomplished by means, by the preaching of the gospel, and the use of the ordinary means of grace, and so shall be gradually brought to pass. Some shall be converted, and be the means of the conversion of others. God’s Spirit shall be poured out first to raise up instruments, and then those instruments shall be used and succeeded. And doubtless one nation shall be enlightened and converted after another, one false religion and false way of worship exploded after another. By the representation in Dan. 2:3, 4 the stone cut out of the mountain without hands gradually grows. So Christ teaches us, that the kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, Mat. 13:31, 32, and like leaven hid in three measures of meal, verse 33. The same representation we have in Mark 4:26, 27, 28 and in the vision of the waters of the sanctuary, Eze. 47. — The Scriptures hold forth as though there should be several successive great and glorious events by which this work should be accomplished. The angel, speaking to the prophet Daniel of those glorious times, mentions two glorious periods, at the end of which glorious things should be accomplished, Dan. 12:11, “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.” But then he adds in the next verse, “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days,” intimating, that something very glorious should be accomplished at the end of the former period, but something much more glorious at the end of the latter.
But I now proceed to show how this glorious work shall be accomplished.
1. The Spirit of God shall be gloriously poured out for the wonderful revival and propagation of religion. This great work shall be accomplished, not by the authority of princes, nor by the wisdom of learned men, but by God’s Holy Spirit, Zec. 4:6, 7, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain, and he shall bring forth the head stone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” So the prophet Ezekiel, speaking of this great work of God, says, chap. 39:29, “Neither will I hide my face any more from them; for I have poured out my Spirit on the house of Israel, saith the Lord God.” We know not where this pouring out of the Spirit shall begin, or whether in many places at once, or whether, what hath already been, be not some forerunner and beginning of it.
This pouring out of the Spirit of God, when it is begun, shall soon bring great multitudes to forsake that vice and wickedness which now so generally prevails, and shall cause that vital religion, which is now so despised and laughed at in the world, to revive. The work of conversion shall break forth, and go on in such a manner as never has been hitherto, agreeable to that in Isa. 44:3, 4, 5. — God, by pouring out his Holy Spirit, will furnish men to be glorious instruments of carrying on this work, will fill them with knowledge and wisdom, and fervent zeal for the promoting the kingdom of Christ, and the salvation of souls, and propagating the gospel in the world. So that the gospel shall begin to be preached with abundantly greater clearness and power than had heretofore been. For this great work of God shall be brought to pass by the preaching of the gospel, as is represented in Rev. 14:6, 7, 8 that before Babylon falls, the gospel shall be powerfully preached and propagated in the world.
This was typified of old by the sounding of the silver trumpets in Israel in the beginning of their jubilee, Lev. 25:9, “Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.” The glorious times which are approaching, are as it were the church’s jubilee, which shall be introduced by the sounding of the silver trumpet of the gospel, as is foretold in Isa. 27:13, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts of the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” And there shall be a glorious pouring out of the Spirit with this clear and powerful preaching of the gospel, to make it successful for reviving those holy doctrines of religion which are now chiefly ridiculed in the world, and turning many from heresy, and from Popery, and from other false religion, and also for turning many from their vice and profaneness, and for bringing vast multitudes home to Christ.
That work of conversion shall go on in a wonderful manner, and spread more and more. Many shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, and shall come as it were in flocks, one flock and multitude after another continually flowing in, as in Isa. 60:4, 5, “Lift up thine eyes round about, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee; thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see and flow together.” And so verse 8, “Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” And it being represented in the aforementioned place in the Revelation, that the gospel shall be preached to every tongue, and kindred, and nation, and people, before the fall of Antichrist. So we may suppose, that it will soon be gloriously successful to bring in multitudes from every nation. And it shall spread more and more with wonderful swiftness, and vast numbers shall suddenly be brought in as it were at once, as you may see, Isa. 66:7, 8, 9.
2. This pouring out of the Spirit of God will not effect the overthrow of Satan’s visible kingdom, until there has first been a violent and mighty opposition made. In this the Scripture is plain, that when Christ is thus gloriously coming forth, and the destruction of Antichrist is ready at hand, and Satan’s kingdom begins to totter, and to appear to be imminently threatened, the powers of the kingdom of darkness will rise up, and mightily exert themselves to prevent their kingdom being overthrown. Thus after the pouring out the sixth vial, which was to dry up the river Euphrates, to prepare the way for the destruction of spiritual Babylon, it is represented in Rev. 16, as though the powers of hell will be mightily alarmed, and should stir up themselves to oppose the kingdom of Christ, before the seventh and last vial shall be poured out, which shall give them a final and complete overthrow. We have an account of the pouring out of the sixth in Rev. 16:12. And then upon this, the beloved disciple informs us in the following verses, that “three unclean spirits like frogs shall go forth unto the kings of the earth, to gather them together to the battle of the great day of God Almighty.” This seems to be the last and greatest effort of Satan to save his kingdom from being overthrown, though perhaps he may make as great towards the end of the world to regain it.
When the Spirit begins to be so gloriously poured forth, and the devil sees such multitudes flocking to Christ in one nation and another, and the foundations of his kingdom daily undermining, and the pillars of it breaking, and the whole ready to come to swift and sudden destruction, it will greatly alarm all hell. Satan has ever had a dread of having his kingdom overthrown, and he has been opposing of it ever since Christ’s ascension, and has been doing great works to fortify his kingdom, and to prevent it, ever since the day of Constantine the Great. To this end he has set up those two mighty kingdoms of Antichrist and Mahomet, and brought in all the heresies, and superstitions, and corrupt opinions, which there are in the world. But when he sees all begin to fail, it will rouse him up exceedingly. If Satan dreaded being cast out of the Roman empire, how much more does he dread being cast out of the whole world!
It seems as though in this last great opposition which shall be made against the church to defend the kingdom of Satan, all the forces of Antichrist, and Mahometanism, and heathenism, will be united, all the forces of Satan’s visible kingdom through the whole world of mankind. And therefore it is said, that “spirits of devils shall go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them together to the battle of the great day of God Almighty.” And these spirits are said to come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, i.e. there shall be the spirit of Popery, and the spirit of Mahometanism, and the spirit of heathenism, all united. By the beast is meant Antichrist. By the dragon, in this book, is commonly meant the devil, as he reigns over his heathen kingdom. By the false prophet, in this book, is sometimes meant the Pope and his clergy. But here an eye seems to be had to Mahomet, whom his followers call the great prophet of God. This will be as it were the dying struggles of the old serpent. A battle wherein he will fight as one that is almost desperate.
We know not particularly in what manner this opposition shall be made. It is represented as a battle. It is called the battle of the great day of God Almighty. There will be some way or other a mighty struggle between Satan’s kingdom and the church, and probably in all ways of opposition that can be. And doubtless great opposition by external force, wherein the princes of the world who are on the devil’s side shall join hand in hand. For it is said, “The kings of the earth are gathered together to battle,” Rev. 19:19. And probably withal there will be great opposition of subtle disputers and carnal reasoning, and great persecution in many places, great opposition by virulent reproaches, and also and great opposition by craft and subtlety. The devil now doubtless will ply his skill, as well as strength, to the utmost. The devils, and those who belong to their kingdom, will everywhere be stirred up, and engaged to make an united and violent opposition against this holy religion, which they see prevailing So mightily in the world. — But,
3. Christ and his church shall in this battle obtain a complete and entire victory over their enemies. They shall be totally routed and overthrown in this their last effort. When the powers of hell and earth are thus gathered together against Christ, and his armies shall come forth against them by his word and Spirit to fight with them, in how august, and pompous, and glorious a manner is this coming forth of Christ and his church to this battle described! Rev. 19:11, etc. And to represent to us how great the victory should be which they should obtain, and how mighty the overthrow of their enemies, it is said, verses 17, 18 that “all the fowls of heaven are called together, to eat the great supper given them, of the flesh of kings, and captains, and mighty men,” etc. and then, in the following verses, we have an account of the victory and overthrow.
In this victory, the seventh vial shall be poured out. It is said, Rev. 16:16 of the great army that should be gathered together against Christ, “and he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue, Armageddon,” and then it is said, “And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.” Now the business is done for Satan and his adherents. When this victory is obtained, all is in effect done. Satan’s last and greatest opposition is conquered. All his measures are defeated. The pillars of his kingdom broken asunder, and will fall of course. The devil is utterly baffled and confounded, and knows not what else to do. He now sees his Antichristian, and Mahometan, and heathenish kingdoms through the world, all tumbling about his ears. He and his most powerful instruments are taken captive. Now that is in effect done which the church of God had been so long waiting and hoping for, and so earnestly crying to God for, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true?” Now the time is come.
The angel who set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the earth, lift up his hand to heaven, and swore by Him that liveth forever and ever, who created heaven and all things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that when the seventh angel should come to sound, the time should be no longer. And now the time is come. Now the seventh trumpet sounds, and the seventh vial is poured out, both together, intimating, that now all is finished as to the overthrow of Satan’s visible kingdom on earth. This victory shall be by far the greatest that ever was obtained over Satan and his adherents. By this blow, with which the stone cut out of the mountain without hands shall strike the image of gold, and silver, and brass, and iron, and clay, it shall all be broken to pieces. This will be a finishing blow to the image, so that it shall become as the chaff of the summer threshing floor.
In this victory will be a most glorious display of divine power. Christ shall therein appear in the character of King of kings, and Lord of lords, as in Rev. 19:16. Now Christ shall dash his enemies, even the strongest and proudest of them, in pieces, as a potter’s vessel shall they be broken to shivers. Then shall strength be shown out of weakness, and Christ shall cause his church as it were to thresh the mountains, as in Isa. 41:15, “Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.” And then shall be fulfilled that in Isa. 42:13, 14, 15.
4. Consequent on this victory, Satan’s visible kingdom on earth shall be destroyed. When Satan is conquered in this last battle, the church of Christ will have easy work of it, as when Joshua and the children of Israel had obtained that great victory over the five kings of the Amorites, when the sun stood still, and God sent great hailstones on their enemies, they after that went from one city to another, and burnt them with fire. They had easy work of subduing the cities and country to which they belonged. So it was also after that other great battle that Joshua had with that great multitude at the waters of Merom. So after this glorious victory of Christ and his church over their enemies, over the chief powers of Satan’s kingdom, they shall destroy that kingdom in all those cities and countries to which they belonged. After this the Word of God shall have a speedy and swift progress through the earth. As it is said, that on the pouring out of the seventh vial, “the cities of the nations fell, and every island fled away, and the mountains were not found,” Rev. 16:19, 20. When once the stone cut out of the mountain without hands had broken the image in pieces, it was easy to abolish all remains of it. The very wind will carry it away as the chaff of the summer threshing floor. Because Satan’s visible kingdom on earth shall now be destroyed, therefore it is said, that the seventh vial, by which this shall he done, shall be poured out into the air, which is represented in Scripture as the special seat of his kingdom. For he is called the prince of the power of the air, Eph. 2:2. Now is come the time for punishing leviathan that piercing serpent, of which we read in Isa. 27:1, “In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword, shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan, that crooked serpent, and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.”
Concerning this overthrow of Satan’s visible kingdom on earth, I would, 1. Show wherein this overthrow of Satan’s visible kingdom will chiefly consist. 2. The extent and universality of this overthrow.
I. I would show wherein this overthrow of Satan’s kingdom will chiefly consist. I shall mention the particular things in which it will consist, without pretending to determine in what order they shall come to pass, or which shall be accomplished first, or whether they shall be accomplished together.
(1.) Heresies, and infidelity, and superstition, among those who have been brought up tinder the light of the gospel, will then be abolished. Then there will be an end to Socinianism, and Arianism, and Quakerism, and Arminianism, and Deism, which is now so bold and confident in infidelity, shall then be crushed, and driven away, and vanish to nothing, and all shall agree in the same great and important doctrines of the gospel, agreeable to that in Zec. 14:9, “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.” Then shall be abolished all superstitious ways of worship, and all shall agree in worshipping God in his own ways, Jer. 32:39, “And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them.”
(2.) The kingdom of Antichrist shall be utterly overthrown. His kingdom and dominion has been much brought down already by the vial poured out on his throne in the Reformation, but then it shall be utterly destroyed. Then shall be proclaimed, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen.” When the seventh angel sounds, “the time, times and half, shall be out, and time shall be no longer.” Then shall be accomplished concerning Antichrist the things which are written in Revelation 18, of the spiritual Babylon, that great city Rome, or the idolatrous Roman government, that has for so many ages been the great enemy of the Christian church, first under heathenism, then under Popery. That proud city which lifted herself up to heaven, and above God himself in her pride and haughtiness, that cruel, bloody city, shall come down to the ground. Then shall that be fulfilled, Isa. 26:5, “For he bringeth down them that dwell on high, the lofty city be layeth it low, he layeth it low, even to the ground, he bringeth it even to the dust.” “She shall be thrown down with violence, like a great mill stone cast into the sea and shall be found no more at all, and shall become an habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” Now shall she be stripped of all her glory, and riches, and ornaments, and shall be cast out as an abominable branch, and shall be trodden down as the mire of the streets. All her policy and craft, in which she so abounded, shall not save her. And God shall make his people, who have been so persecuted by her, to come and put their foot on the neck of Antichrist, and he shall be their footstool. All the strength and wisdom of this great whore shall fail her, and there shall be none to help her. The kings of the earth, who before gave their power and strength to the beast, shall now hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire, Rev. 17:16.
(3.) That other great kingdom which Satan has set up in opposition to the Christian church, viz. his Mahometan kingdom, shall be utterly overthrown. The locusts and horsemen, in the 9th of Revelation, have their appointed and limited time set them there, and the false prophet shall be taken and destroyed. And then, though Mahometanism, has been so vastly propagated in the world, and is upheld by such a great empire, this smoke, which has ascended out of the bottomless pit, shall be utterly scattered before the light of that glorious day, and the Mahometan empire shall fall at the sound of the great trumpet which shall then be blown.
(4.) Jewish infidelity shall then be overthrown. However obstinate they have been now for above 1700 years in their rejection of Christ, and instances of the conversion of any of that nation have been so very rare ever since the destruction of Jerusalem, but they have, against the plain teachings of their own prophets, continued to approve of the cruelty of their forefathers in crucifying Christ. Yet when this day comes, the thick veil that blinds their eyes shall be removed, 2 Cor. 3:16. And divine grace shall melt and renew their hard hearts, “and they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his first born,” Zec. 12:10, etc. And then shall the house of Israel be saved. The Jews in all their dispersions shall cast away their old infidelity, and shall wonderfully have their hearts changed, and abhor themselves for their past unbelief and obstinacy, and shall flow together to the blessed Jesus, penitently, humbly, and joyfully owning him as their glorious King and only Savior, and shall with all their hearts, as with one heart and voice, declare his praises unto other nations.
Nothing is more certainly foretold than this national conversion of the Jews is in Romans 11. And there are also many passages of the Old Testament which cannot be interpreted in any other sense, which cannot now stand to mention. Besides the prophecies of the calling of the Jews, we have a remarkable seal of the fulfillment of this great event in providence, by a thing which is a kind of continual miracle, viz. their being preserved a distinct nation in such a dispersed condition for above 1600 years. The world affords nothing else like it. There is undoubtedly a remarkable hand of providence in it. When they shall be called, then shall that ancient people, that were alone God’s people for so long a time, be God’s people again, never to be rejected more. They shall then be gathered into one fold together with the Gentiles. And so also shall the remains of the ten tribes, wherever they be, and though they have been rejected much longer than the Jews, be brought in with their brethren the Jews. The prophecies of Hosea especially seem to hold this forth, that in the future glorious times of the church, both Judah and Ephraim, or Judah and the ten tribes, shall be brought in together, and shall be united as one people, as they formerly were under David and Solomon, as Hos. 1:11 and so in the last chapter of Hosea, and other parts of his prophecy.
Though we do not know the time in which this conversion of the nation of Israel will come to pass. Yet thus much we may determine by Scripture, that it will be before the glory of the Gentile part of the church shall be fully accomplished, because it is said, that their coming in shall be life from the dead to the Gentiles, Rom. 11:12, 15.