« PreviousContinue »
beware, and instructed them to know them by their fruits, he addeth, concerning them and their followers, this further information and most instructive lesson unto all, ver. 21 : “ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” “ Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you : depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.” These false prophets were not to deny the name of Christ, but to say unto him, “ Lord, Lord :” they were not to prophesy or preach in any name but in his name; they were to be of his church, and endowed with the powers of his church, to cast out devils, and to do many wonderful works : but because they did not the will of his father, but followed and worshipped their own will in matters of religion ; because they wrought iniquity, and did not connect morality and holiness of life with the profession of Christ, they are cast into outer darkness, and not suffered to enter into the kingdom, in the day when he cometh to judge the secrets of every heart, and to expose the hidden works of darkness. The language of this whole passage gives distinct notice of a false system of preaching and teaching in his church, which under cunning disguises should preserve its place until he should come in the glory of his Father, to sit upon the throne of his judgment, and establish the kingdom of heaven upon the earth. Now this is all which we have undertaken to assert, and here we find it asserted by our Lord in his first discourse unto his disciples.
It is not necessary that we should take the following verses for confirmation; but for illustration of the truth above stated they serve not a little. By the similitude of a man building his house upon a rock, and of another man building his house upon the sand, he setteth forth the opposite fate of those who hear his sayings and do them, and of those who hear them but do not do them. Both classes hear them--that is to say, both profess to take Christ for their teacher—but one part do them not, but follow the inclinations of their own will; not worshipping and obeying God in Christ, but their own imaginations. This division of the church, led away by those false prophets into the broad way of destruction, build a house and found it upon the sand; the other, who obey Christ as well as hear him, build a house and found it upon a rock. Compare this with the saying of our Lord to Peter, “ Upon this rock will I build my church (Matt. xvi. 18); with the saying of Paul, “ Whose house are ye, if ye hold fast the beginning of your confidence stedfast unto the end” (Heb. iii. 6); with the saying of the prophet Zecha
VOL. I.-NO, I.
riah (v. 11), that they " built a house" for iniquity in the land of Shinar, where Babylon stood ; and with other passages of Scripture where the like language is used, as 1 Cor. iii. ; and 1 Pet. ii.; and you will see more to be meant in this language than a common metaphor; and that it is a sacred symbol whereby is set forth the continuance, side by side, of the church of Christ and the synagogue of Satan, until the stormy day of God's wrath and indignation should arise to overthrow and to destroy every building which is not founded upon Christ the Rock, and to root up every plant which our Father in heaven hath not planted.
2. The next document for proving that God determined and that Christ foresaw an apostasy in his church, is taken from the xxiv th chapter of Matthew, which, while it helpeth mainly in the general issue, doth especially certify us as to the fact of its continuing until, and being strongest at, his coming, as well as of its beginning immediately upon his departure. This discourse consisteth of two parts, of which the first treateth of the beginning of sorrows, ver. 8; and the last, of the end and consummation of all sorrows in the day of his coming. Twice over are they warned of men deceiving them, under the fair pretension of false Christs and false prophets, verses 5—11, and 23, 24; the first of these warnings being immediately antecedent to the destruction of Jerusalem, the latter to the coming of the Son of man; and both together proving that the spirit of Antichrist should start against Christ in the beginnings of his church, and should continue acting against Him until he should come and destroy it by the brightness of his coming. This power of delusion shall be greatest towards the end ; and of its greatness, it is thus written, ver. 24: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets; and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” The universal apostasy of those days is further evidenced in this document, by the declaration, ver. 30, “ That all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, when they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” Now, wherefore should they mourn, unless they had reason to dread his fiery indignation ? which indeed is expressly declared, in the comparison of the state of the earth at that time with its condition in the days of Noah. In the corresponding passage of Luke the disciples are spoken of as in great distress, and are called upon to look up, and lift up their heads, for their redemption draweth nigh ; and they are told to watch and pray, that they may be counted worthy to escape all those judge ments. Now the Lord, foreseeing that his church was to be
. established over large portions of the earth, could not have thus spoken, unless Christendom were to come into the state of op
pressing and persecuting his saints, concerning whom he saith that " they shall be hated of all men for his Name's sake.” It clearly appeareth, therefore, that he contemplated his churchthat is, his faithful disciples—as about to live during his absence, and to be found living at his coming, in the midst of a persecuting people; and how this could be, unless an apostasy should cover the nations of Christendom, I cannot understand, and I may say is utterly impossible. This will more clearly appear from the third document I am about to produce from the holy Evangelists.
3. This shall consist of various isolated and detached passages gathered around the centre of Christ's last discourse to his disciples, where the experience of his church is set forth as about to be an experience of suffering and sorrow. (John xiv. xv. xvi.) “ If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own ; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my sayings, they will keep yours
also..... These things have I spoken unto you, that you should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the hour cometh that whosoever killeth you will think he doeth God service..... Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall
, weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered, she remembereth not her anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world : and ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your hearts shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” These passages, together with the whole strain of the discourse, set forth the " little while” of Christ's absence as a time of great distress and sorrow to Christ's disciples which should only grow greater and greater as the event draws nigh, and, like child-birth, should be greatest immediately at the appearing of that for which she longeth ;-the sorrow of the church coming in like manner unto a height, until she that hath been travailing shall bring forth her glorious hope, when her sorrow shall be turned into joy, and that a joy which no man taketh from her; and therefore the Holy Spirit, the Divine Person whom in the mean time they should enjoy, is called their Comforter, in allusion to the great need of comfort which they should have, and the only source of comfort which they should possess in the Holy Spirit. The like truth is taught us throughout all the Gospels :
for example, this same discourse closeth with these solemn words,-" In the world ye shall have tribulation : but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world ;” and again, Matt. x. 38, “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.....I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's foes shall be they of his own house ;” and again, Matt. xvi. 24, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me;” and again, when he would promise blessings to his faithful disciples for their sacrifice of all things for himself, he doth promise them persecutions along with them (Mark x. 29); “ There is no man that hath left house, or brethren or sisters, or father or mother, or wife or children, or lands, for my sake and the Gospel's, but he shall receive an hundred-fold more in this time; houses and brethren and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come life everlasting.” And to shew the universality of this condition of abandoning all dear affections of the heart and near relations, in order to be Christ's disciples, take that which is written Luke xiv. 25: “And there went great multitudes with him, and he turned and said unto them, If any man come unto me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple; and whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple...... Whosoever he be of you that doth not forsake all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Now, I ask any one who is in the habit of receiving Christ's words unto his disciples as of unlimited and universal application, if these passages do not imply, do not expressly state, that sacrifice and suffering from all persons, the nearest and the dearest, should be the constant experience of his saints. One of two conclusions must necessarily follow: either that he did not foresee that his church was to be professed by whole nations of men, and established by authority of law, which would prevent such sacrifice and loss and suffering; or else, if he foresaw this, the other conclusion standeth, that this outward professing church was to contain within it, and chiefly to consist of, false professors and apostates, who should bring upon the true believers those cruel calamities which he foretelleth unto them all. Now, because I believe that the Lord both forek new and hath brought to pass the establishment of his church over many nations, I do hold it certain that in those nations, and in every family thereof, there dwell, under the guise of Christians, wolves in sheep's clothing ; in other words, a mystery of iniquity; in other words, an apostasy, which shall aye be ready to spoil and cruelly entreat the little flock unto whom it hath pleased the Father to give the kingdom. This great point I shall further establish by another document, derived from the parables of the Lord.
4. The other method of establishing this same proposition out of the Gospels, which I call indirect, because it is gathered not from positive declaration, but from similitudes--though, from the number and the distinctness of the variety of them, it is to my own mind the most sufficient and satisfactory of the two-is by examining those parables whereby our Lord hath described the kingdom of heaven ; in all of which the condition of the visible church, both during the absence and at the coming of the Lord, is indirectly described. But first I must explain what is meant by the expression itself. The expression “ kingdom of heaven" must certainly signify something which the Jews were both well acquainted with, and deeply interested in : for not only the Baptist, but the Lord and his twelve Apostles, and the seventy disciples, did chiefly go about to announce it to be at hand, which would have been an idle errand, unless it had been a thing the people were both expecting and desiring. Moreover, our Lord's ministry was chiefly employed in teaching and explaining of what kind this kingdom was to be; first, hid from observation; then, most observable and glorious. Now it is clear that the Lord and his disciples would not have begun and continued to preach about something under the name of the kingdom of heaven, unless the Jews had already been familiar with that word, and expecting that thing: nor would he have been at such pains to give them the true idea of it, unless they were already entertaining some inaccurate idea of it. This doth not stand upon our inference merely, but is expressly declared in several parts of the Gospels, as Luke xix. 11, xvii. 20; Acts i. 6. Now whence had the Jews this knowledge of the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, if not from the OldTestament Scriptures; to which if we refer, we find it every where in the Psalms and the Prophets, but especially in the prophet Daniel; by whom, vii. 13, 14, 18, 27, 28, we have this kingdom of heaven, or of God, or of the Son of man, or of the saints, laid down, as to place, upon the earth ; as to extent, including all people and nations and languages; as to duration, for ever; as to time, immediately after the destruction of the fourth or Roman kingdom, and upon the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven. To this prophecy, which so defines the place, time, and circumstances, of the great hope of all the faithful, the Lord commonly makes reference when he designates himself" Son of Man," and always when he represents himself as “coming in the clouds of heaven ;” for it is the only part of the Old Testament wherein the last expression occurreth, and, besides the viïith and the lxxx th Psalm, the only one where the