« AnteriorContinuar »
the name of Christ. Shall we say, that these men shall receive more privilege from God, than the most Orthodox Confessors, which kept their souls within their teeth; yet suffered grievously, and lived and died more holily?
Shortly, then, if we shall count this preventive resurrection a special blessing of God, it must needs be an injurious partiality in those, who shall make such a difference of Saints, as that the more holy shall, in the retribution of the just God, carry away the lesser reward; and the less holy shall, for one act of an instantany suffering, be crowned with so great and long-lasting glory, before them.
Howsoever it be taken, surely, that so much-urged text of i Thes, iv. 14. favoureth neither of them: for when the Apostle saith, Those, that sleep in, or for, Christ, shall rise first, he speaks of one and the same resurrection; not of two resurrections, a thousand years asunder. Neither is there any clause in the whole Book of God, that doth so much as seem to countenance, no not to intimate, this double resurrection, in the sense pretended; or this reign, of either Martyrs, or other Saints upon earth: which, in a verity of such importance, is without all example: for all the holy doctrines of Divine Scripture do, as that Father said aright, ouvenyDéverv, “ contruth with” each other; making good both themselves and their fellows; whereas this, not only (if it could be true) stands alone; but hath many sore brushes of contradictio, both of test and reason, to discard it from our belief. Alstedius's
As for that evasion of Alstedius, that the single excvasion, con- pression of this supposed truth is no more derogation cerning this froin the undoubted certainty of it, than that of the single expres; Seventy Weeks of Daniel; which, though but once sion of the Mil
mentioned in Scripture, yet is and ever hath been relenary Reign, ceived as a most sure, comfortable, and undeniable veanswered.
rity; it cannot serve his turn in the case we have in hand. There is no less difference in the comparison, than in the time. The one, a thing past, and punctually fulfilled: the other, in very pretence, future. The one, clearly laid forth, without any ambiguity in the relation; save only that weeks of years, not of days are plainly signified: the other, full of doubtful construction. As well inight he have instanced in many hundred passages of Scripture, especially in matter of history, wherein the Holy Ghost contents himself with single, and but light touches of report; and yet challenging no less belief, than upon a thousand reduplications.
Far be it from him to entertain so uncharitable thoughts of us, as if we durst not trust God on his Word, though but once spoken. We know him to be AMEN; and that repetitions add nothing to plain truths: but, all the question is here, not of words, but of sense; not of what is said, but of what is meant: so as we have reason to expect and require, that, when a strange doctrine is raised out of the construction of a doubtful text, it should be shewed to be seconded by the accordant testimony of other Scriptures; which, upon this matter lying now before us, can never be effected.
We are now fallen upon the Last part of our task: No necessity which is to shew, that we are not, by any necessity of from the text,
of admitting this text, cast upon the admission of these
this strange nets, of a Double Resurrection of the body; and of tenet of the such a Reign of the Saints upon earth, as is pretended: Reign contenibsince the words may well bear other more commodious ed jor. and safe constructions, wherein our sober predecessors contented themselves to rest.
For the terms here used are, if we observe them, of much latitude. He saith, I saw the souls of them, that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, &c. and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. This is the First Resurrection.
1. We know the souls are sometimes taken for the spirit that animates us: sometimes for the whole person; so the Proto-Martyr tells us, Jacob brought down into Egypi threescore and fifteen souls ; Acts vii. 14.
2. That were beheaded; though, in a grammar-sense, it signifies the time past; yet, commonly, in a prophetical sense, it signifies the future: it being the ordinary phrase of the Prophets, by reason of the infallible certainty of the events, to speak of things to come, as already past: the instances are obvious and infinite.
3. The living and reigning with Christ, is, either in this life, or in heaven; present, or future; in grace, or in glory; in way of
government, or of a blessed fruition.
4. The thousand years, either punctually determinate, or indefinite.
5. The First Resurrection, either of the soul, or body; either the resurrection of the soul from sin and a dead state of
unregeneration, or the resurrection of the body from the grave; and, in the former construction, a resurrection, either of a reformed community, or of particular persons.
All these, then, well put together, cannot but afford us our choice of orthodox and probable interpretations, without any violence of fered to the sense.
Amongst the rest, I shall pitch upon these two, as The safe and the most clear and free from all just exception.
allowed conThe former, relating to the condition of God's faith. struction of the
text insisted on. ful servants here on earth, after those bloody and general persecutions. Thus: “ I saw, upon the restraint of Satan from that furious and universal violence, which, by the hands of those cruel Emperors, he had exercised against the Church of Christ, such honour put upon his faithful and constant Confessors, during the time of Satan's shutting up, as that the power was committed unto them of managing the affairs of God's Church, and executing due censures upon the offenders. And I saw those godly persons, which, in true zeal of God's glory, either had suffered, or were
ready to suffer and lay down their lives, for the testimony of Jesus Cbrist; and those, which consciouably refrained from and abhorred the errors and idolatries of the times; those, I saw to enjoy a comfortable life and spiritual reign with Christ, in a sanctified and gracious estate here on earth; all the time of the thousand years of Satan's restraint. But, for the rest, which lay spiritually dead in their sins and impious courses, they did not, either in that space or afterwards, at all, attain to this life of grace, and to the true knowledge and fruition of God. Now this abandoning of the sinful corruptions of the times, and attaining to the true knowledge and love of the saving truth of God, and a conscionable obedience thereto, is the First Resurrection. Blessed and holy is he, that hath his part in this Spiritual Resurrection; for on such a one the second death, which is an eternal separation of the soul from the presence of God, shall have no power, &c."
The other, relating to the happy estate of the souls glorified in heaven: to this sense : “ I saw the souls of the blessed Martyrs, after they were, by a violent death, for bearing witness to the name of Christ, freed from the calamities of this wretched life, received up to glory; and, reigning in heaven with their glorious Redeemer in everlasting happiness, even during those thousands of years, wherein Satan was in his fetters, and, after that, to all eternity."
If either of these constructions may fitly explicate the text, and fully suit with all other Scriptures, to what purpose should we ransack the grave, and rake in the ashes of an odious Cerinthus, or an exploded Papias, for the long-since condemned conceits of old, and hitherto forgotten Millenarism?
SECT. 11. I MIGHT easily, if it would requite the cost of time, lay before my. : reader the just exception, that may be taken against divers of those other expositions, and the opinions thereon grounded, which I formerly specified: but I do willingly forbear them ; as more worthy of silence and neglect. I would rather spend my time and breath in EXHORTING all good Christians, to keep close to their old tenets ; and to beware of all either new-devised or redivived er. rors of opinion, whereof this last age of ours is deplorably fruitful. An Eahortation Among the rest, let me beseech them to stick to stick fast to fast to their received principles in these four points, the Old Princi- which are incident to the matter that lies before us. ples. And, First,
First, that they FIX NOT THEIR BELIEF UPON ANY Not to believe any Kingdom
KINGDOM OF CHRIST OUR SAVIOUR, BUT SPIRITUAL AND of Christ, but HEAVENLY. I am sure no other can be enforced spiritual and
upon them by the text: for it is not said, Christ heavenly. shall reign with them on earth, but they shall reign with Christ; rather intimating, that they should be fetched up to him, than that he should come down to them : and, besides, this
reign is attributed to the souls, not to the bodies of the martyred Saints. If it be urged, that this reign of theirs is upon a resurrection from the dead, it is as easily returned, that the resurrection intimated is no less spiritual, than the soul which it concerns : Awake, thou that sleepest, and stand up from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light ; Eph. v. 14. saith the Spirit of God: lo, that sleep is death; and both that dead sleep and the awaking out of it is purely spiritual. Neither, indeed, is this personal and visibiy monarchical reign of Christ other than disagreeable to the heavenly condition of the Son of God, in the fulness of his glorification : which, certainly, if ever he would have exercised, it should have been when he was here, like unto us, a man amongst men; that so he might have ruled over subjects suitable to himself: but, now that his human body is in a celestial and glorious estase, and his blessed deity shining forth in the full beams of resplendent majesty which mortal eyes are not capable to behold, to bring him down from the highest heaven to take the personal government of men, subject to sin and death, as Alstedius yields them, seems to be extremely incongruous. And, if we would imagine a visible and personal monarchy, here must be all things correspondent thereunto; the place, the form, the attendants, the officers, the laws, the process, the rewards and punishments, in an outward, bodily, and little-other-thansecular way: all which how probable it may sound to Christian ears, I leave to the judicious reader to judge. Had our Blessed Saviour while he was here on earth, or his inspired Apostles after him, given us the least hint of this his future monarchy, we should humbly have prostrated our souls to the belief and expectation of it: but if men will be raising such doctrines out of their private constructions of an anigmatical text, capable of a more safe and received sense, we must crave pardon to withhold our assent, and to leave them to their own imaginations.
Secondly, that THEY DO NOT, out of this conceit of Secondly, Not a personal and visible kingdom of Christ, FLATTER to think of any THEMSELVES INTO AN OPINION OF AN ABSOLUTE FREE
dom from sin DOM FROM EITHER SIN OR BODILY AFFLICTION, HERE,
or afflictioil, IN THIS EARTHLY LIFE ; since both these are and ever
here below. will be the unavoidable companions of frail humanity, and the miserable symptoms of our fleshly nature.
It is a true word of Eliphaz, the 'Temanite: What is man, that he should be clean ? and he, that is born of a woman, that he should be rightvous ? Job xv. 14. Certainly, we must cease to be men, when we begin to be sinless. Sin, though it be not of the essence of our nature, as some have erroneously thought; yet it is a proper and inseparable adjunct thereof: which we cannot hope to be quit of, by the most perfect regeneration. And as for affliction, he hath told us, that cannot deceive us, even Truth itself, In the world you shall have tribulation ; John xvi. 33: and his blessed Apostles, to the same purpose, That through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of heaven ; Acts xiv. 22. And, if Alstedius shall hope to avoid the blow, by shifting his foot, and referring the
words to the present condition of the persecuted disciples, which yet should afterwards be interchanged with vicissitudes of calm and peaceable times; he might well have considered, that this life of ours is necessarily obnoxious to many other afflictions, beside violent persecutions; and might have parallelled that sentence with the experimental observation of the great Pattern of Patience: Man, that is born of a woman, is of a few days and full of trouble ; Job xiv. 1. Neither, indeed, can this conceit of theirs stand with that old and never-contracted distinction of the Church Militant and Triumphant: for, if this Church of Christ upon earth shall, after the next return of him, be freed both from Satan, who is now chained up, and from all whatsoever afflictions, with what warfare shall we say it is exercised for the space of a whole thousand years? what adversary can it meet with for confliction? And, if Alstedius shall tell us, that, in this mean while, the living Saints, though not the raised, are still combated inwardly in their breasts with their rebelling corruptions; we send Mr. Archer to enter the lists with him : who offers to make good upon him, that those
very Saints, whom our returning Saviour shall find alive, are, both in themselves and in their children, in all succeeding generations, freed from all the power of sin ; so as, though they have an original corruption still within them, yet it shall never break forth to the prejudice of their souls. So as, by this rule, there should be no Church in the world till towards the end of that thousand
years, but Triumphant : which surely a man had need of a strong faith to believe. Thirdly, Toer- Thirdly, that they DO NOT ENTERTAIN THE THOUGHT pect no other
OR EXPECTATION OF ANY OTHER FUTURE COMING OF coming of
THEIR SAVIOUR, BUT THAT ONE ONLY OF HIS RETURN Christ, but that
TO THE FINAL JUDGMENT OF THE WORLD. Surely, the one to his final Judgment. blessed Apostle knew of no other, when he charged
Timothy before God, and the Lord Jesus, reho shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearance, to preach the word; 2 Tim. iv. 1, 2: when he prayed for his Thessalonians, that God would stablish their hearts unblameable in holiness, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with all his Saints ; 1 Thess. jji. 13. Lo, if there should be imagined a third coming of Christ, we cannot say that he comes with all his Saints: since the greatest part of them, according to this tenet, are already upon earth before him; and do rather stay for him below, than come from above with him. And, indeed, wherefore should it be imagined, that the Lord Jesus should make this middle descent from heaven to earth ? Great actions must have answerable motives : what necessity or use can they frame to themselves, of this wonderful appearance? Is it to receive his kingdom ? He hath it already: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet, saith the Apostle ; Heb. ii. 8: already hath God highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above all names : that, at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; Phil. ii. 9, 10.
Is it to settle the government of that his better re