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former occurreth. I have no manner of doubt, therefore, that our blessed Lord and his disciples, in preaching or announcing the good news (Gospel) of the kingdom, did nothing else than encourage the grand hope of Abraham, that he was to be “heir of the world,” into the inheritance of which we Gentiles enter by faith. (Rom. iv. 13 et seq.) He found the idea incorrectly entertained by the Jewish people, especially as to its immediate appearance ; and this he is at pains to correct by many instructions; as to Nicodemus, John iii., where he teacheth the dispensation of the Spirit as being about to precede it: Luke xvii. 20, where he teacheth to the Pharisees the kingdom of love and joy and peace in the Holy Ghost, which is within a man, and followed with the visible and most ostentatious kingdom, which was about to come : as to all the people, Luke xix. il, where he teacheth the long delay during which his disciples were to be entrusted with gifts and graces of the Spirit to use and improve unto God's glory, and afterward an abundant reward at his coming: as to Pontius Pilate, John xviii. 36, whose conscience he set at rest by telling him, that “his kingdom was not out of this world,” but from the heavens, after the present fashion of the world should be done away with, in "new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (wherefore also it is called the kingdom of the heavens, as being now there manifested and from the earth hidden, from this world's sight prevented by the rulers of its darkness, Eph. ii. 2); but withal he declared and testified, that he was a King; though of the nature of his kingdom he did not at such a time or to such a one discourse, signifying in one word the reason thereof, that “ those only who are of the truth hear his voice.”
Let this suffice for the exposition of what is meant by the expression “ the kingdom of heaven ;” that it is the reign of Christ and his saints upon the earth, which, foretold by the prophets from the first of time, began first to be openly preached by John, Luke xvi. 16,and is till now the one and the only subject of preaching, which is called the Gospel; being only the good news, or glad tidings, of that kingdom of rest and glory which is prepared for all that believe God and obey Christ, and to which they shall be raised up in the day of his glorious appearing. Reconciliation by the cross of Christ is the allaying of our fears God-ward ; and sanctification is the purging of our conscience unto obedience of the Holy Spirit, the sealer and preserver until the day of redemption; and salvation is the deliverance from judgment in the day of his appearing; but all these are but the steps to that throne and kingdom which is prepared by the Father for his eternal Son and his adopted sons, upon this earth and over all creatures, for ever and ever.
Now, let us proceed to examine those parables which treat of the kingdom, and which do, as we have asserted, cast an indirect but most distinct light upon the state of the church up to and at the time of Christ's appearing:
And here, first, we refer to that series of parables which is contained in the xiiith of Matthew, where the kingdom of heaven is likened to a field where the wheat is hidden by the multitude of tares; and not cleared until the harvest-time, when the tares are burned and the children of the kingdom (the wheat), heretofore hidden, shine forth all at once most gloriously bright and glaring as the sun in the firmament. This parable proves that the heirs of the kingdom were for a season to be planted and to grow, beside the heirs of perdition, until the end of this age and form of the world; and then, but not till then, the enemies and offenders being taken away by judgments of the Son of Man, the righteous should take and possess and gloriously occupy the world. This is a universal truth, so long as the present age of this world lasteth, until the great judga ment of the wicked upon the earth shall bring in that blessed age wherein dwelleth righteousness : wherever the Gospel of the kingdom is preached (the seed is "the word of the kingdom,” ver. 19), there are found some to receive it, who, being sealed with the Holy Ghost, are children of the kingdom, waiting for the day of redemption, Rom. viii. 23; Eph. i. 13, iv. 30. And what redemption need they? Our parable tells us, a redemption from the darkness, the oppression, and disgrace with which they are now covered by the neighbourhood and immediate contact of these tares, children of the wicked one; the things that offend and that do iniquity; which are to grow beside them till the conclusion of this age, and the beginning of the age to come; till the Son of Man, now and till then known as a sower of seed, shall begin to be known as a reaper of the harvest, with his crown on his head, and his sickle in his hand (Rev. xiv. 15); and likewise as the burner of the tares, or the treader of the wine-press of the earth (Rev. xiv. 18), which is nothing else than the destruction of those false prophets, those pretenders to the kingdom, who grew in the same field and by the side of the good seed, or children of the kingdom. For it is to be observed, that the tare of Eastern countries is the very counterfeit of wheat, with its stalk and bearded prickles, and hardly to be known from the wheat till at the time of harvest it prove fruitless. And this is the reason why the servants are not permitted to pluck them up till the harvest, when the angels of power and strength are sent to consume them with fire, in the day when the Son of Man cometh to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to make the secret thoughts of every heart to be manifest. This parable, therefore, there can be no doubt, yieldeth the conclusion that there was to be in the bosom of the church a great multitude of false disciples, of counterfeit and spurious persons, who should hide from the sight and knowledge of all but God alone, the true children of the kingdom, and be a continual offence, and work iniquity; whose consumption and destruction should be by judgments of the Son of Man, and not by preaching of the Son of Man; by the labour not of the sower, but of the harvestman; not by the servants of the sower, but by the angels of the discerning and dividing reaper.
Let us now very briefly shew the illustration of this truth derived from another parable, spoken at the same time; in which the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind,-notof one kind, but of every kind, good and bad. Now what meaneth this, but that the Gospel, or good news of the kingdom, when preached over the world, should attract men of very different characters, men of every kind of character?—that the same outward visible boundary should enclose them all, as the net encloseth all the fishes ? And this condition of intermixture should continue while the net was sweeping the world and including men. But when it should become full-that is, when the fulness of the time of calling men to come into the kingdom should be accomplished 1; when the dispensation of Gospel-preaching and Gospel-ordinances should be ended, as we know it is to be ; when, from sowing, the Son of Man should turn his hand to reap, and come seated on the cloud of his glory, with a crown upon his head and a sharp sickle in his hand—then, and not till then, it is, that the mixed multitude whom the trumpet of the kingdom, which is preaching, hath congregated together, shall be separated, and the good ones be blessed with that deliverance from false brethren, which in this present age they cannot possess. “Which,when it was full, they drew to shore....they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, and cast the bad away....so shall it be at the end of the world : the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire ; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Now can any thing be more distinct than these two parables are, with respect to the condition of the church during this present age ? If any one ask, what the expression this “pre
“ sent age” meaneth, I will answer him by referring to that saying which he spake to the Sadducees, in answer to their question upon the subject of the resurrection (Luke xx. 24): “ The children of this world [age] marry, and are given in marriage ; but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world [age), and the resurrection from the dead” (literally,“ the resurrection, the one out of the dead”), “ neither marry nor are given in marriage ; neither can they die any more; for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being children of the resurrection." From this passage we have the most exact means of determining the duration of this present age, during which the church was to continue of good and bad inseparably intermingled : it is until the first resurrection, as it is emphatically " the resurrection, the one from among the dead.” Till that event this age endureth; and with that event the age to come beginneth. Accordingly, we find, in the xxth of the Apocalypse, that after Antichrist is destroyed and Satan cast out, the first resurrection, or that from among the dead, immediately proceedeth. Now, in the Epistle to the Ephesians (ii. 2) it is said, that wicked men “walk according to the age of this world; according to the prince of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience.” Not, therefore, until this prince of the power of the air is cast out, doth the age of this world conclude. Till then, therefore, when another Ruler and another Prince, even Christ, obtaineth the dominion, we believe that Satan will use the Gospel-call in order to multiply his delusions, and permit, yea, encourage, his generation to mingle themselves with the children of light. Till then, the devil will sow the Lord's fields with tares : till then, the Lord will permit the tares to grow beside the wheat: till then, the children of this age shall be wiser to deceive, than the children of light to detect them. In one word, till then it is the purpose and prophecy of God that the same enclosure, the same sacred pale of faith and ordinances, should contain men of every sort.
There is just one other parable to which I will make reference in order to establish this same conclusion, which is that of the Marriage of the King's Son, recorded in the xxiid of Matthew, and spoken to the very intent of teaching this great truth, which the Lord addeth as its moral, “ Many are called, but few chosen."
The marriage supper of the Lamb, for which the bride maketh herself ready, is at the end of this age and the beginning of the age to come (Rev. xix. 9); and this parable represents to us the state of the church at, or immediately before, that time. At supper-time, saith Luke," he sent his servants to say to them that were bidden, Come, for all things are now ready.” Those that were bidden are those that had received and accepted the call of the Gospel, those within the net of the kingdom, the many who are called. And how received they the King's message ? They made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm and another to his merchandize; and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.” Such is the character of the many that are called at the time of the going forth of the summons, that the marriage of the Lamb is come (Rev. xix. 7): all, or almost all, in a state of apostasy and rebellion against the voice of their King; insomuch that he is stirred up to take summary vengeance upon
them and their wicked inventions: and he sendeth forth other servants to the highways and hedges, and from the refuse of the people furnisheth the supper-table of his Son; and thus that word, so frequently in his mouth, is fulfilled, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Now, though some may be inclined to
” interpret this parable as not referring to the eve of the age to come or the end of this age, but rather to understand it of a constant and ever-present feature and law of the kingdom-namely, that it is to draw its wedding guests from publicans and sinners and harlots, and to attract not many noble, not many wise, not many rich, who, though outwardly and professedly pertaining to it, are not of it in spirit and in truth-still, this interpretation will make no difference with respect to our conclusion, that the church containeth in its bosom multitudes who are not the friends but the enemies of the King and of the King's loyal
But that this constant feature of the church, which we have. now established from so many passages in the Gospels, shall be especially characteristic of it at the time of the Lord's advent, is put beyond all question by the continual declaration of the day of his coming as a day of exceeding great wickedness in the church, like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. For that this wickedness is in his professing church, and no where else, is manifest from this circumstance, that those who are taken in that day to himself are taken from beside those that are left. Two are grinding at the mill, the one is taken and the other left; two are sleeping in a bed, the one is taken and the other left; two are in the field, the one is taken from the judgment and the other is left. Now those who are taken, every one will allow, are the saints gathered unto Christ; and, seeing those they are taken from amongst remain for judgment, it is manifest that the church in that day, after yielding forth the saints of Godthe wheat, or children of the kingdom; the good fish, stored for the Father's use--the church, thus bereaved of its salt, thus deprived of the children of light, remaineth to endure a judgment which hath its parallel only in that of the Flood and of Sodom. Moreover, after that solemn discourse (Luke xvii.) from which we have taken these particulars, the Lord addeth a parable, to encourage the elect under the hardships which for long and long they were destined to endure; and, after giving them assurance that if they ceased not to pray they would not fail of righteous judgment in the end, he addeth a most mournful presentiment of the failure and diminution, if not the utter falling away, of their faith ; saying (Luke xv. 8), “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”-that is, faith in things to come, faith in things not seen : for faith which is not prospective is not the faith of the Gospel, which is