Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

God's leisure. For our example the apostle says, The earnest expectation of the creature waiteik for the manifestation of the Son of Godu: it is an earnest expectation, and yet it waits; and, for our nearer example, We ourselves, which have the fast fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves55; but yet, he adds, vie wait for the adoption, the redemption of the body. Though we have some ears, we wait for the whole sheaves; and we may be content to do so, for we shall not wait long. This is the last time", says St. John, speaking of the present time of the gospel; in the time of nature they were a great way off from the resurrection, for then the time of the law was to come in: and in the time of the law they were a great way off, for then the time of the gospel was to come in. But this is the last time; there shall be no more changes after the gospel; the present state of the gospel shall land us upon the judgment: and (as the Vulgate reads that place), Novissima hora est, if God will have us stay a little longer, it is but for a few minutes, for this is our last hour. We feel scorns, we apprehend terrors, nevertheless we, we rooted in his promises, do expect, we are notat an end of our desires, and with a holy impatience that he would give us, and yet with a holy patience till he be pleased to give us, new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness; which are the two branches which remain yet to be considered.

As, in the first discoveries of the unknown parts of the world, the maps and cards which were' made thereof were very uncertain, very imperfect, so, in the discovery of these new heavens, the expositions of those who have undertaken that work are very divers. First, Origen, citing for his opinion Clement, whom he calls the disciple of the apostles, takes those

54 Rom. viii. 19, "Rom. viii. 23. "1 John, ii. 18.

heavens and that earth, which our antipodes (and generally those that inhabit the other hemisphere) inhabit, to be the new heavens and the new earth of this text. He says, Oceanus intransibilis ad reliquoi mundos, There are worlds beyond these worlds, beyond that ocean, which we cannot pass nor discover, says Origen; but those worlds, and those heavens, and that earth, shall be discovered before the last day, and the gospel of Christ be preached in all those places. And this is our expectation, that which we look for, according to his promises, in the intention and exposition of Origen. Those that were infected with the neresy of the Chiliasts, or Millenarians (with which heresy divers great and learned men, whom we refuse not to call fathers in the primitive church, were infected), upon the mistaking of those words in the Apocalypse, of reigning with Christ a thousand years" after the first resurrection, argued and concluded a happy temporal state of God's saints here upon this earth, for so many years after that day. So that, though there should not be truly a new earth and new heavens, but the same heavens and the same earth as was before for those future thousand years, yet, because those saints of God, which in their whole former life had been in misery upon this earth, should now enjoy.all earthly happiness upon the same earth for a thousand years, before they ascended into heaven, these heavens and this earth (because they are so to them) are called a new earth and a new heavens by those Millenarians. St. Jerome and St. Augustine, and after them the whole stream, run in another channel. They say, that these heavens and this earth shall be so purified, so refined, by the last fires of conflagration, as that all corruptible qualities shall be burnt out of them, but they, in their substance, re"Rev. xx. 4.

main still. To that those words of St. Paul help to incline them, Per it figura, The fashion of this world passeth awaym, the fashion, not the substance: for it is Melioratio, non interitus, The world shall be made better, but it shall not be made nothing. But to what end shall it be thus improved? In that, St. Augustine declares himself, Mundus in melius immutatus apte accommodabitur hominibus in melius immutatis. When men are made better by the resurrection, this world, being made better by those fires, shall be a fit habitation for those saints of God; and so even this world, and whatsoever is not hell, shall be heaven. And, truly, some very good divines of the Reformation59 accompany those ancients in that exposition, that these heavens, purified with those fires, and superinvested with new endowments, shall be the everlasting habitation of the blessed saints of God. But still, in these discoveries of these new heavens and this new earth, our maps will be imperfect. But as it is said of old cosmographers, that when they had said all that they knew of a country, and yet much more was to be said, they said that the rest of those countries were possessed with giants, or witches, or spirits, or wild beasts, so that they could pierce no farther into that country; so when we have travelled as far as we can with safety, that is, as far as ancient or modern expositors lead us, in the discovery of these new heavens and new earth, yet we must say at last, that it is a country inhabited with angels and archangels, with cherubim and seraphim, and that we can look no farther into it with these eyes. Where it is locally, we inquire not; we rest in this, that it is the habitation prepared for the blessed saints of God; heavens, where the moon is more glorious than our sun, and the sun as glorious as he that made it; for it

58 1 Cor. vii. 31. »9 Polanu*.

is he himself, the Son of God, the Sun of glory. A new earth, where all their waters are milk, and all their milk honey; where all their grass is corn, and all their corn manna; where all their glebe, all their clods of earth, are gold, and all their gold of innumerable carats; where all their minutes are ages, and all their ages eternity; where every thing is every minute in the highest exaltation, as good as it can be, and yet superexalted and infinitely multiplied by every minute's addition; every minute infinitely better than ever it was before. Of these new heavens and this new earth we must say at last, that we can say nothing; for the eye of man hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived, the state of this place. We limit and determine our consideration with that horizon with which the Holy Ghost hath limited us, that it is that new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Here then the Holy Ghost intends the same new heavens and new earth, which he does in the Apocalypse*1, and describes there, by another name, the new Jerusalem. But here the Holy Ghost does not proceed, as there, to enamour us of the place by a promise of improvement of those things which we have and love here, but by a promise of that which here we have not at all. There, and elsewhere, the Holy Ghost applies himself to the natural affections of men. To those that are affected with riches he says, that that few city shall be all of gold, and in the foundations all manner of precious stones**; to those that are affected with beauty he promises an everlasting association with that beautiful couple, that fair pair, which spend their time in that contemplation and that protestation, JScce tu pulchra, dilecta mea; Ecce tu pulcher, Behold thou art fair, my beloved", says he;

60 Rev. xxi. 1. •1 Rev. xxi. 18. « Cant. i. 15—17.

and then she replies, Behold thou art fair too, noting the mutual complacency between Christ and his church there. To those who delight in music, he promises continual singing, and every minute a new song; to those whose thoughts are exercised upon honour and titles, civil or ecclesiastical, he promises priesthood, and if that be not honour enough, a royal priesthood; and to those who look after military honour, triumph after their victory in the militant church; and to those that are carried with sumptuous and magnific feasts, a marriage supper of the Lamb, where not only all the rarities of the whole world, but the whole world itself, shall be served in; the whole world shall be brought to that fire, and served at that table. But here the Holy Ghost proceeds not that way, by improvement of things which we have and love here; riches, or beauty, or music, or honour, or feasts; but by an everlasting possession of that which we hunger, and thirst, and pant after here, and cannot compass, that is, justice, or righteousness; for both those our present word denotes, and both those we want here, and shall have both for ever, in these new heavens and new earth.

What would a worn and macerated suitor, oppressed by the bribery of the church, or by the might of a potent adversary, give, or do, or suffer, that he might have justice? What would a dejected spirit, a disconsolate soul, oppressed with the weight of heavy and habitual sin, that stands naked in a frosty winter of desperation, and cannot compass one fig leaf, one colour, one excuse for any circumstance of any sin, give for the garment of righteousness? Here there is none that does right, none that executes justice, or not for justice sake. He that does justice does it not at first; and Christ does not thank that judge that did

« AnteriorContinuar »