by Thomas Goodwin
And now Published for the Good and Benefit of all those whose Hearts are raised up in the expectation of the glorious Liberties of the Saints.
Glorious things are spoken of Thee, O Thou Citie of GOD! - Psal. 87:3.
Behold the Lord shall come with might against the strong ones, and his arme shall rule for him. - Esay 40. 10. 11.
THE EPISTLE TO THE READER
CHRISTIAN READER, thou hast here presented to thy view a small tract, the matter whereof is weighty, and of concernment to all that are the professed subjects of Jesus Christ. It is a thing of sad consequence to consider how we have been kept under blindness and darkness, although not totally, yet in a great measure, in regard of such truths as do immediately strike at antichrist and his false power: as namely this great train, CHRIST THE KING OF HIS CHURCH; and that Christ hath given this power to his church, not to a hierarchy, neither to a national presbytery, but to a company of saints in a congregational way. Now these truths strike directly at antichrist, and therefore kept and quelled down as errors. And so by reason of this obscurity (we being half blind) such bright truths seem strange to us, and go under many aspersions and calumnies, as carnal, erroneous, absurd, and the like. And truly we have been so accustomed to the yoke, that we seem to beat down freedom with casting up a thousand surmises, dreaming of strange consequents. Nay, there is a generation of men in these times (some or most of them seeming to plead for Christ) are as inveterate against the one true way of Jesus Christ, as if it would be the bondage of Rehoboam succeeding the light oppression of Solomon; whereas it will prove to be a haven to our tedious storms, and a period to many distractions.
Reader, give over thy wonted censuring of men's labours, and learn to be more wise; lay aside all prejudicial thoughts concerning this tract, and weigh it in the balance of the sanctuary, comparing it with the word; if it will hold out there, then embrace it, and make use of it for thy comfort. Indeed, it may be beneficial to thee divers ways.
First, By this thou mayest learn to prize Jesus Christ more. What was that among other things that made Christ so beloved and excellent in the eyes of his spouse? His head was of gold. Now what is this head of gold but that excellent government that is upon his shoulder.
Secondly, It will administer comfort to thee, in regard of the former yokes, of which there are hopes they will be broken off, at least in the accomplishing of these truths. Nay, the day is now dawning wherein Sion's peace and comforts shall be fulfilled, Jesus Christ set up, the sole and great King of his church.
Thirdly, It will teach you to make that use of it that the apostle Peter doth of the like truths, 'What manner of persons ought we to be?' The use of it is divers, beyond my reach or weak judgment to prescribe; and indeed my commendation of it doth but darken it, I being so far below the matter and the author. But thy experience may make up that of which I fall short. So commanding thee (both in the use of this and anything else that bears the stamp and image of truth upon it) to the teaching of that Spirit that is the author of all truth in the hearts of believers, to be taught by it, I leave thee in the perusing of this small treatise, hoping thou wilt reap some good by it. Farewell.
Thine in the Lord Jesus, to command,
A GLIMPSE OF ZION'S GLORY; OR, THE CHURCH'S BEAUTY SPECIFIED
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Halleluiah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.—REV. 19:6.
AT the pouring forth of the fifth vial, there was a voice saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; at the pouring forth of the sixth, John hears 'a voice, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of thunderings, saying, Halleluiah, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,' immediately following the other. Babylon's falling is Zion's raising; Babylon's destruction is Jerusalem's salvation. The fourth vial was poured upon the sun, which is yet doing (namely, upon the emperor and that house of Austria), and will be till that house be destroyed. The heat of that makes the seat of the beast hot, and prepares it unto the fire that it is appointed unto. God is beginning the pouring forth of the fifth vial, namely, upon the throne of the beast, upon Babylon. This is the work that is in hand. As soon as ever this is done, that antichrist is down, Babylon fallen, then comes in Jesus Christ reigning gloriously; then comes in this halleluiah, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let Christ live, and Barabbas die, was the last speech of Tremellius. Let Babylon fall, let Jerusalem rise, and Christ reign in his glory; this is the voice of all the saints this day, and will continue to their last voice. It is the work of the day to cry down Babylon, that it may fall more and more; and it is the work of the day to give God no rest till he sets up Jerusalem as the praise of the whole world: 'Blessed is he that dasheth the brats of Babylon against the stones.' Blessed is he that hath any hand in pulling down Babylon, and beautiful likewise are the feet of them that bring glad tidings unto Jerusalem, unto Zion, saying, 'The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.' This is the work of this exercise, to shew unto you how upon the destruction of Babylon Christ shall reign gloriously, and how we are to further it.
The words then read unto you, they are, you see, an halleluiah.
Quest. But what is that to the day of a fast? Is an halleluiah suitable to a fast? Halleluiah is praise ye the Lord. The work of a fast is a mourning work, and yet this halleluiah is suitable to this day of fast.
Ans. 1. Suitable. First, our mourning is to be evangelical, and therefore to have comfort mixed with it.
Secondly, Because our mourning is a preparation to, and hastening of, this halleluiah.
Thirdly, Because we are by faith to speak of things as if they were done, therefore now to shew you what is to be done, and what we are to look upon as if it were done this day, halleluiah is suitable for that.
Yea, further, a day of humiliation is a day of reconciliation too as well as a day of humiliation; and the great fruit of our reconciliation with God is the setting up of the kingdom of his Son.
Yea, we read of the church of the Jews, that in their returning from the captivity, God did lead them by weeping, Jer. 31:9. The argument of deliverance from captivity under antichrist, and the setting up of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, may stand with our weeping, and we in a weeping and a mourning frame are fittest to hear such an argument as this is.
Quest. Halleluiah is an Hebrew word: why here used?
Ans. First, To note the joining of the church of the Gentiles with the Jews, according to the prophecy in Zechariah 14:9, 'The Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one.'
Secondly, Because the Gentiles are to provoke the church of the Jews to come in, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, chap. 2:3, 5, 'Come ye, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.' Fifth verse, 'O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord;' the Gentiles calling upon the Jews to come in. So it shall be at the Jews' calling; and therefore this Hebrew word is used, halleluiah, as if the Gentiles should provoke the Jews, after antichrist is fallen, now to praise the Lord, because he reigns.
In this halleluiah there are these two things considerable. First, what it is for which this halleluiah is sung; secondly, from whom. First, what it is for. It is for this, because the Lord God omnipotent reigneth; the Lord God, that is, Christ. Christ now appears to be Lord God. His Lordship and dominion was much darkened before; now it appears to all the world that he is Lord God, Lord God omnipotent. The name of Christ is the mighty God, as Isa. 9:6, but he is but little known by this name in comparison. After antichrist is fallen, he shall be known by his own name, the mighty God, the Lord God omnipotent, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. His crown and his dignity were as it were hidden before in comparison. Little of the power of the sovereignty of Christ did outwardly appear before, but now it shall appear before the eyes of all his enemies, that it is he that reigns, he hath the kingdom of kingdoms, and is the Lord of lords. 2. From whence came this halleluiah? 'I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters.' By waters we are to understand people: the voice of many waters, of many people.
First, It is the voice of the waters, the voice of Jesus Christ reigning in his church, comes first from the multitude, the common people; the voice is heard from them first, before it is heard from any others. God uses the common people and the multitude to proclaim that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. As when Christ came at first, the poor receive the gospel; not many wise, not many noble, not many rich, but the poor; so in the reformation of religion after antichrist began to be discovered, it was the common people that first came to look after Christ. In Cant. 5:7, we find the church inquiring for her beloved, which is to he understood of these times of reformation. She went to the watchmen; the watchmen smote her, despised her, and persecuted her. At the 8th verse, she goes to the daughters of Jerusalem, and inquires for her beloved, that is, among private Christians and common people; and this glorious church that is to come, when the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, according as it is here said, the voice will be first among the multitude. It is observable that we have in Cant. 7:1, where you find a description of the glorious church that is a-coming, wherein Christ is to reign gloriously. The description there begins at the feet, and goes upward. When Christ is described, Cant. 5, the description of Christ is from the head, and so downward; but when the estate of the church in her glory is described, she begins at the feet, and goes upward; to note the beginning and the raising of the church is like to be at first among the meaner sort of people, among the multitude. The halleluiah for Babylon's downfall was among the multitude before it came to the four and twenty elders, as you may see in the beginning of the chapter. The business, brethren, concerning the Scots, it is a business, in the issue whereof we hope there will be great things. Where began it? At the very feet, at the very soles of the feet. You that are of the meaner rank, common people, be not discouraged, for God intends to make use of the common people in the great work of proclaiming the kingdom of his Son: the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. The voice that will come of Christ's reigning is like to begin from those that are the multitude, that are so contemptible, especially in the eyes and account of antichrist's spirits, and the prelacy, the vulgar multitude, the common people. What more contemned in their mouths than they! and yet it is from them that this voice doth come, 'The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.' We real in the 2 Chron. 30:15, that the priests and Levites were ashamed in that glorious reformation of Hezekiah. They did not prepare themselves as the people did; so it is many times that in many places where God is doing a great work; and whensoever God sets up the kingdom of his Son in that glorious manner that he doth intend, he will not begin with the priests and Levites. They will not be so forward, but the people at the first are more forward. In Neh. 3:5, it is said concerning the building of the temple and Jerusalem, that the nobles did not put to their necks, but it is said the people blessed those that came to dwell at Jerusalem. But yet mark further, it came from the multitude as the noise of many waters. Though the voice of Christ's reign came first from the multitude, yet it comes but in a confused manner, as the noise of many waters. Though the multitude may begin a thing, and their intention may be good in it, yet it is not far them to bring it to perfection. That which they do commonly is mixed with much confusion, and a great deal of discover: it was but as the voice of many waters. The people had a hint at something: Down with antichrist, down with popery, not understanding distinctly what they did; their voice was but as the voice of many waters; therefore it follows, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, that is, as one paraphrases of it, the voice that is more terrible and piercing like the thunder. After the beginning of this confused noise among the multitude, God moves the hearts of great ones, of noble, of learned ones, and they come into the work, and their voice is as the voice of mighty thundering, a voice that strikes terror, and hath a majesty in it to prevail. We hear of the voice of the multitude in our own country, as the voice of many waters. They cry up the kingdom of Christ, and cry down the kingdom of antichrist, cry down Babylon and the prelacy; but this doth seem to be the voice of many waters, that the adversaries derided it, scorned it: it is but the multitude, a company of rude people. But blessed be God, we begin to hear the voice from the thunderings too in a more terrible way. God begins to work upon the great ones of the land, the worthies of the land that are drawn together in that assembly, and they do begin to come to the land, and beyond the land, to our ears, as it is terrible in the ears of the adversaries that they begin to fear. This is the work of the day, for us to lift up our voice to heaven, that it might be mighty to bring forth more and more, the voice of our parliament as a voice of thunder, a terrible voice to the Antichristian party, that they may say, 'The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.' And let us not be discouraged, for our prayers, though they be poor, and mean, and scattered, they may further the voice of thunderings; though our prayers be as the voice of many waters, confused, we may by them further this work, so as to hear more of the voice of our worthies that are assembled as thunderings, saying, 'The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.' 1 Sam. 7:9, when Samuel did but offer a sucking lamb, there arose thunderings. If we come before the Lord, and it be but a sucking lamb that we are able to offer; if we come but to present ourselves only to testify on what side we are, there may come that voice of thunderings from our parliament, furthered by our voice, saying, 'The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.' How gladly would we hear this voice come from our nobles, and the king himself, and the great ones of the kingdom, to hear them powerfully commanding and speaking for the furtherance of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and the setting it up. But to come more closely to the words. There are these two doctrinal conclusions that contain the scope of them:
Doct. 1. First, That though the kingdom of Christ may be darkened for a while, yet certainly Christ will reign in his church gloriously, at which the saints will sing halleluiah.
Doct. 2. Secondly, That the beginning of this glorious reign of Christ, the multitude of the people shall be the furtherers of it, and take special notice of it. It is but only the first that I do intend to speak of in way of a doctrinal conclusion. It is this.
Doct. Though Christ's kingdom be for a while darkened, Christ shall reign gloriously. That is implied. It is revealed to John as a great wonder, as a glorious thing. Why, did not Christ reign before? Yes, but not in that manner that now he is to reign. The kingdom of Christ hath been exceedingly darkened in the world; though it now begins to appear a little more brightly, it hath been exceedingly darkened. When he came in his own person, how did he appear to reign, and be the Lord God omnipotent? I mean outwardly he was a man of sorrows, one that was rather a worm than a man; as it is said of him, He was one in whom 'appeared no form and beauty for which he should be desired.' He was even bruised by his Father. He was in the form of a servant, yea, in the form of an evil servant, being made sin for us, and beaten like an evil servant, yea, made a curse for us, and that in the abstract. How did he reign? They made him a king in way of derision, put a reed into his hand instead of a sceptre, and bowed the knee in scorn, and called him the king of the Jews; and thus he reigned outwardly, and not otherwise, in his own person. And afterwards in the primitive times how did he appear to be Lord God, and to reign there, when the heathen emperors reigned over his subjects, and had their wills upon them? His subjects were but a company of poor, distressed, forlorn people, wandering up and down, persecuted, and destitute of all comforts. Afterwards, when God brought Constantine the Christian emperor and others to reign, the church enjoyed a little peace; this was but for a little time. In the 8th of the Revelation, it is said there was silence in heaven for half an hour, which is applied to the little time of respite that the church had in Constantine's time; for Licinius, who was joined with Constantine in the empire, presently fell off, and grew a persecutor. Then spread Arianism over all the world, that all the world seemed to be an Arian; so that he was not acknowledged Lord God, and therefore not reigned. Then antichristianism spread itself, and he set up himself as Lord God, and he prescribed laws to the consciences of men, and Christ was cast out of his throne. Yea, to this day how little hath Christ reigned outwardly! The devil himself is a greater king, I mean in regard of multiplicity of subjects. Divide the world into thirty parts, and there are not above five of those that acknowledge Christ; and out of those five take them where antichrist reigns, and how little doth Christ reign! And among them, where Christ is acknowledged and antichrist rejected, how is his kingdom persecuted, and of the better sort! How is his kingdom slighted, and many forward professors and zealous ministers have hard thoughts of it! Yes, among those that set up his kingdom, in regard of their miscarriages, his kingdom is darkened; so that Christ hath but a little reign in the world. And it is a glorious thing spoken of to John, 'that Christ, Lord God omnipotent, reigneth.' What shall we say to these things, that Christ should be king of heaven and earth, and should appear so little in his reign as he hath done, and yet doth to this day! Let us stay a little here, and admire at the infinite depth and wisdom of God's counsels that are past finding out; what God should aim at and mean (if we may speak with holy reverence) to suffer these things, that his own Son, so infinitely dear unto him, should have his glory so darkened in the world as he hath. We may think of some reasons why God doth suffer this; but what his aim and intentions are in the depth of his counsels is infinitely beyond us.
Reason 1. It may be it is to be a stumbling-block to wicked and ungodly men in his just judgment, that they should see and not understand.
Reason 2. And it was upon this ground that God suffered his kingdom to be darkened hitherto, that antichrist might prevail, because of much glory that he is intended to bring out of the prevailing of antichrist in the world. Therefore in his providence he hath so permitted it, as that the kingdom of his Son for many years should be darkened. And, my brethren, if the kingdom of Christ had been kept in congregations, in that way that we and some other churches are in, it had been impossible that antichrist should have got head. But God in his providence, because he would permit antichrist to rise and to rule for a long time, and he hath many things to bring out the kingdom of antichrist to work for his glory, therefore God hath left this truth to be so dark, the setting up of Christ in his kingly office.
Reason 3. Thirdly, because God would exercise the faith and other graces of his Spirit in his children, that they might believe in and love Jesus Christ for his spiritual beauty, though there appears nothing but spiritual beauty, though no outward beauty, no outward kingdom doth appear, but he be as a spiritual king only. It was a great and a glorious work in those three wise men that came to Christ, that offered frankincense, and gold, and myrrh to Christ when he was in a cratch in a manger; and so for God's people now to believe in him, now to love, now to rejoice in him, to offer all to him, now his kingdom is darkened, now he doth appear so mean as he is, this is a glorious work of faith; and we should labour much to exercise this work of faith, in looking upon this spiritual beauty that is in Christ, and satisfying our souls in that, that so we may not be offended at the darkening of Christ's kingdom outwardly. And the less Christ doth reign outwardly in the world, the less glorious his kingdom doth appear outwardly, the more let us labour to bring our hearts under his spiritual reign; the more others say, We will not have this man reign over us, the more let our souls subject themselves to him, and say, Christ is our King, and let him reign for ever over us; yea, let us labour to sympathise with Jesus Christ in the darkening of his glory and of his kingdom. Jesus Christ, though he [is] the glory of his Father, the brightness of his glory, the character and graven form or the image of his Father, yet is he contented to have his glory darkened. Who are we that we must have glory in this world and outward excellencies, when Christ is willing to be without them? Let us be wilting to go, like the witnesses, clothed in sackcloth, till Christ comes to reign. There are white-shining garments prepared; but that time is not yet, though it will not be long. The bridegroom yet seems to be absent, and therefore it is fit for the spouse to go low and mean in the mourning weeds as a widow; the trimming of the bride in her outward glory may come hereafter, when Christ shall come in glory into the world.
Reason 4. And lastly, the kingdom of Christ is darkened for a while outwardly, and therefore it should teach us to bless God so much the more for that opportunity that we have of setting up Christ as king amongst us; for yet the voice is not heard much, that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth abroad in the world, though lately some noise we have heard; but, blessed be God, in our congregations amongst us we may hear that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. It is through our wretched wickedness if his kingly power be not fully set up amongst us in all his ordinances. And that we should have an opportunity to set up his kingly power amongst us here, while it is so much opposed and so little known in the world, it is a great mercy. And let us take heed of abusing that opportunity we have for darkening the kingly power of Christ which we profess to set up, especially in these times, when there comes to be a voice, though confusedly, from the multitude, and some kind of voice of thunder from the great ones.
But though it be dark for a while, certainly he shall reign, and the voice will be glorious and distinct one day, saying, 'Halleluiah, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.' He shall reign, first, personally; secondly, in his saints.
First, Personally. We will not fully determine of the manner of his personal reigning; but thus far we may see, there is a voice of great waters, though not distinct, but a probability in his person God and man. He shall reign upon the earth, here in this world, before that great and solemn day. There are divers scriptures that have somewhat of this in them. We cannot give the distinct voice of those scriptures; but many of God's saints, they do hear something, and when a thing grows nearer and nearer, God will reveal it more distinct: Zech. 12:10, 'They shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son.' It is usually understood either of a spiritual looking by the eye of faith, or beholding Christ at the day of judgment. But why should we take it for a spiritual looking, and looking at the day of judgment? That place doth not hold out; that is not the thing intended. They shall mourn every one apart. This is not like the setting forth of the mourning at the day of judgment. And take but this one rule, that all texts are to be understood literally, except they make against some other scriptures, or except the very coherence and dependence of the Scripture shews it otherwise, or it makes against the analogy of faith. Now there is nothing against this, but it may be so. A second scripture that seems to hold out somewhat is that in Mat. 26:29, 'I will not henceforth drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.' It is true this is likewise interpreted in a mystical sense, but there is no reason why we may not take it literally; not in the kingdom of his Father in heaven, but in that kingdom that he shall come in here to drink the fruit of the vine, to have communion with his saints in this world, 2 Thes. 2:8. Antichrist shall be destroyed by the brightness of Christ's coming, the brightness of his personal coming: and that place, Rev. 20, where it is said, 'The saints shall reign with him a thousand years,' which cannot be meant reigning with him in heaven. It is made as a proper peculiar benefit unto such as had refused antichrist's government, especially to the Christian church. It is likely divers of the prophets and patriarchs may come in, but especially it belongs to the Christian church. Now the reigning with Christ a thousand years is not meant reigning with him in heaven, for after these thousand years there shall be many enemies raised against the church. Gog and Magog shall gather themselves together. If it were meant of heaven, that could not be; and therefore it must be meant of Jesus Christ coming and reigning here gloriously for a thousand years. And although this may seem to be strange, yet heretofore it hath not been accounted so; it hath been a truth received in the primitive times. Justin Martyr, that lived presently after John, he spake of this as a thing that all Christians acknowledged; and likewise Lactantius hath such expressions in divers places of his seventh book, that there are glorious times coming, wherein shall be plenty and fruitfulness in the church; yet first Rome must be burnt, and Babylon first down, and brings the sybils, the heathen oracles, for it; and after a little time there shall be stirring up of enemies against them. Thus far they go. If they did not believe that Christ himself should come personally to reign, yet he shall with his saints reign in a glorious manner, and the church shall be so raised up in the world outwardly as to be above all the men of the world in outward glory.
And there are many scriptures full for that which we may be much more confident in, than we can be of the other. There is a time coming when there shall be this halleluiah in the church, 'The Lord God omnipotent reigneth,' as in Dan. 7:17, 18; 'The four beasts are the four monarchies, and the last is the Roman monarchy, and that Babylon shall go down together; and immediately upon that, the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever and ever,' at the 21st, 22d verses; ver. 27, 'And the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.' The kingdom under heaven is not the kingdom of the world to come. More apparent is that in the 12th of Daniel, which is ordinarily interpreted of the day of judgment; but surely this text doth not aim at the day of judgment principally, but at a time before. First, because many that sleep shall awake, not all, but many. Secondly, he says, that they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; whereas the glory that shall be put upon the saints in heaven shall be as the sun. Though this glory be great, it is inferior to that which shall be. The third reason is, that Daniel must shut up these words, and seal up this book as a great secret. That there should be a resurrection at the last day, a reward of happiness to the righteous, and of misery to the wicked, is no great secret; but this that was revealed to Daniel was a great secret. But Daniel might say, if the book be shut up, How shall the truth come to be known? Many shall run to and fro, and take pains in finding it out, and at last this truth shall come to be found out, and knowledge shall be increased; and certainly it is the antichristian yoke that doth hide this truth. Men dare not whisper of any truth, but of such as are held in the church of Rome; but when there comes to be a liberty of churches, and that men may freely search into this truth, knowledge will be increased. The fourth reason is, because in the last verse there seems to be a promise even to Daniel, that he should have his share and part in this glory. Was it such a matter that Daniel in the resurrection should have his lot, and that he should stand up at the day of judgment? No; but that he should have his lot in that resurrection was a great privilege. Again, for Christ's reigning with the saints, take two places in the Psalms: Ps. 49:14, 'The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning'; there is a time they shall have dominion, though now they have a night; a morning shall come that the upright shall have dominion; Ps. 149:5, and so on, 'Let the saints be joyful in glory,' &c., and 'a two-edged sword in their hands,' to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people, &c. What shall we make of these scriptures? Indeed, if we be put upon allegorical senses, we may put off any scripture; but if we take them literally, why should we not? And the promise that is made to them that overcome, Rev. 12, the latter end of it, 'He that over-cometh, and keepeth my words, to him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and as the vessels of a potter, they shall be broken to shivers;' what shall we make of this, except the saints shall reign, and there shall be a glorious reign of Christ with the saints? And so that place of the saints reigning and judging the world, some interpret it of the day of judgment, but these scriptures seem to have an apparency to be before; and therefore Christ is said to make them kings and priests unto God spiritually, though not every one properly kings over others, yet so as to have power and dominion in the world; and, therefore, where it is said in the gospel, that righteous men desired to see those things that you see, and did not, in the 10th of Luke it is said, 'Kings desired to see those things that you see, and have not seen them;' so that Christ shall reign together with his saints. And that there shall be such a reign of Christ, and this halleluiah, appears by many arguments, as take this one drawn from Scripture.
If there be many prophecies and promises in Scripture that are not yet fulfilled, and the fulfilling whereof will bring the church into a more glorious condition than ever it was yet in the world, then there is a glorious time a-coming. Now there are such scriptures, wherein are such glorious things promised to be fulfilled to the church as yet never were fulfilled; and that we know not what to make of, unless there be a truth in this: Isa. 24:23, 'Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun shall be ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem.' When was this, that there was such a reign of Christ in mount Zion, as that the moon was confounded, and the sun ashamed? Certainly this cannot be understood of their return from their captivity, for the people of the Jews wars under contempt after their deliverance from captivity, and came not to such a glory as this, and were under a kind of captivity, and met with such oppositions, that they were as long building the temple as they were in captivity, seventy years.
Obj. But some that were in captivity saw both the first and the second temple; how could this be, if it were so long?
Ans. The foundation they might see, but not see it finished. And in Ahasuerus's time they were in captivity, as that, had not God wrought mightily, they had all been cut off by a wicked Haman. Therefore they were not so glorious: Isa. 33:20, 'Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down.' This text neither hath not been fulfilled hitherto, but must remain: Isa. 54:11, 'O thou afflicted, tossed with tempests, and not comforted! behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and thy foundations with sapphires,' &c. When antichrist shall fall down, and the Jews called, and this halleluiah sung, 'The Lord God omnipotent reigneth,' then this promise may be made good, Isa. 60. If you read the whole chapter, there are glorious things spoken of the reign of the church; but there have never been such glorious times since those prophecies, and therefore these we are to expect to be fulfilled. That place of Ezekiel, of the dry bones receiving flesh and life, is apparent to be the Jews' coming, and God's joining two sticks together, making Judah and Ephraim to be one; and therefore glorious things are to be expected immediately after the fall of antichrist; and if you may speak of the fall of antichrist as done, you may speak of those promises as done. So in Rev. 21, 22, there is a description of the glorious estate of the church, which ordinarily is applied to the glory of heaven; but there is a mistake in applying these things to the glory that is in heaven, and not to think of the glory that shall appear on earth before. It is said that John saw the new Jerusalem come down from heaven. If it had been the glory of heaven, more like heaven should have been opened, and he raised up to it. Again, John here says, that 'the foundations of the walls had twelve stones, and in them the names of the twelve apostles.' That the foundations of heaven should have the names of the twelve apostles is not like; for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchs and prophets, shall be there as well as the apostles; and why should it not have the names of the patriarchs and prophets as well as the apostles? And if you read the Revelations, you shall find that the kings and princes came to give in their glory to the church. Now that the kings and princes should come in to make heaven glorious, there is no likelihood in that. Thus there are these prophecies to be fulfilled, and these promises to be accomplished, and therefore a time for the Lord God with the saints to reign gloriously. And why should we think it much? Let us but consider the great designs that God hath in honouring of his saints in the world, and we have no cause to think much of such a truth as this; for hereafter in heaven Christ will be honoured before his saints. But how will Christ be honoured before all the world? You will say, at the day of judgment. But only at that time so long as the wicked shall stand for their sentence. Do we think there shall be no further time for Christ and his saints to be honoured but just then? God intends to honour Christ and his saints before all the world. Christ hath purchased a glorious condition by humbling himself so low to the death of the cross, and therefore was promised the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession; and this must be given in due time, and God is pleased to raise the hearts of his people to expect it. And those that are most humble, most godly, most gracious, most spiritual, searching into the Scriptures, have their hearts most raised in expectation of this. And it is not like that that work of the Spirit of theirs shall be in vain; but God is beginning to clear it up more and more. God is beginning to stir in the world, and to do great things in the world, the issue whereof (I hope) will come to that we speak of.
Quest. But what shall be the glorious condition of the church when the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, for which the saints shall sing this glorious halleluiah? Tell us something of this good land.
Ans. In the general, I answer, it is the resurrection from the dead, as the apostle speaks, Rom. 11, concerning the calling of the Jews. But for particulars, 'Glorious things are spoken of thee, O thou city of God.'
The first thing wherein the happiness of the church consists, is this: that it shall be delivered from all the enemies of it, and from all molesting troubles, and so be in a most blessed safety and security. The God of peace shall tread down Satan shortly, and all that are of Satan. Christ is described in this Rev. 19 with his garment dyed in blood, when he doth appear to come and take the kingdom; and he appeared with 'many crowns' on his head, that notes his many victories; 'and his name was King of kings, and Lord of lords.' And the saints appeared triumphing with him, clothed with white linen, and set upon white horses. Is that a clothing for soldiers? Yes; for the army of Christ, that rather comes to triumph than for to fight. Christ fighteth and vanquisheth all his enemies, and they come triumphing in white. All tears shall be wiped away from the church, Isa. 25:8, Rev. 21:4. 'There shall be no briar nor thorn,' Ezek. 28:24, 'among the people of God.' Ezekiel did once live among briars and thorns, but there shall be no pricking thorn left. And this city, that is described in the Revelation, shall have the gates always open, in regard of the security that is there; no danger at all of any enemy.
Secondly, There shall be a wonderful confluence of people to this church; both Jew and Gentile shall join together to flow to the beautifulness of the Lord. Dan. 2 ver. 35, Christ is compared to the stone that shall break the image, and shall become a mountain, and fill the whole heaven. Isa. 60, 'They shall come as doves to the windows.' And when John came to measure the city, the church, it was a great and mighty city.
Thirdly, Because where there is much confluence, there useth to be a contraction of much filthiness; therefore, in the third place, it shall be most pure, a pure church; yea, in great part, if not altogether. Nay, we may almost affirm, altogether to be delivered from hypocrites. 'Without there shall be dogs, and whosoever shall work or make a lie.' Not without, in hell; but without the church. Hypocrites shall be discovered and cast out from the church, though many get into the church now; then the righteous nation shall enter in. In the 44th of Ezekiel, ver. 9, there is a description of the church under the gospel; and he shews that none uncircumcised in heart shall enter in there. But the fulfilling of the prophecies of those chapters, in the latter end of Ezekiel, will not be till this time, and then no uncircumcised in heart shall enter: Rev. 21:27, 'There shall in nowise enter into it any thing that defileth,' &c. There are two negatives in the original, they shall not, they shall not enter. As Christ says, 'Whosoever comes to me, I will in nowise cast out;' I will not, I will not cast out. 'Blessed are that are called to the supper of the Lamb.' Before, many were called, few chosen; but now all that are called are chosen, and none that are made partakers of the first resurrection shall die the second death. It is a most pure church, and therefore is described, the walls to be precious stones, the city to be as clear as glass, and the pavement to be pure gold.
Fourthly, There shall be abundance of glorious prophecies fulfilled, and glorious promises accomplished. When you read the prophets, you have prophecies of many glorious things; and the knowledge of this truth will help you to understand those prophecies. Rev. 2, it is said there was a book sealed shewed unto John, and none could open the book but the Lamb. The book of the prophecies is a sealed book, and especially the book of the prophecies of the Revelations. But when the Lamb, Christ, shall come to reign, this shall be opened to us. And therefore it is said, the holy apostles and prophets should rejoice at the destruction of antichrist, because the prophets should be so clearly opened and understood by the people of God: Rev. 22:6, 'These sayings are faithful and true; and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel, to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.' Why the Lord God of the holy prophets? That Lord God that did intend to make the holy prophets clear and evident. Says the woman of Samaria, 'When the Messiah comes, he shall teach us all things.' We may well say it of the coming of Christ, Here the meaning of abundance of prophecies and promises, that we know not what to make of, shall be clear before us. Christ is called the Word of God, and is said to be faithful and true, because he will discover the truth and faithfulness of the promises. And this will be a glorious time, when the prophecies stall be opened, and the promises come to be fulfilled.
Fifthly, Abundance of hidden mysteries of godliness will be cleared then, that now are exceeding dark, Rev. 4. John did but see a door opened in heaven; but afterwards, Rev. 19, he saw heaven opened, noting the clear revelation of truth that shall be then. And, Rev. 11:19, 'There was seen the ark of the testament': whereas the ark stood before, in the holy of holies, that was shut up, that none was to come into it but the high priest. But now it is opened to all. In the ark where the secrets, a type of the secrets that shall be opened at this time, that were shut up before, glorious truths shall be revealed, and above all the mystery of the gospel, and the righteousness of faith shall be discovered. Before, what a little of the mystery of the gospel and the righteousness of faith was discovered! but this will grow brighter and brighter till that time, which is the great design of God for his glory to all eternity.
Sixthly, The gifts of the saints shall be abundantly raised. He that is weak shall be as David, and he that is strong as the angel of the Lord, Zech. 12:8; and then shall be accomplished that promise, that God 'will pour his Spirit on them; and their young men shall see visions, and their old men shall dream dreams.' It was fulfilled in part upon the apostles, but the full is not till that time knowledge shall be increased.
Seventhly, The graces of the saints shall be wonderfully enlarged, even in a manner glorified; though not so full as afterwards in the highest heaven, but mightily raised. The saints shall be all clothed in white linen, which is the righteousness of the saints; that is, the righteousness they have by Christ, whereby they shall be righteous before God, and holy before men. Holiness shall be written upon their pots, and upon their bridles: upon everything their graces shall shine forth exceedingly to the glory of God. John saw a vision of the bride coming down from heaven, with a heavenly glory, fit to meet Christ her bridegroom, to stand in his presence, and serve him day and night.
Yea, further, religion shall be honoured, and no more be a disgrace. God hath promised to his church that he will wipe away their reproaches for ever.
The people of God have been and are a despised people; but their reproach shall be for ever taken away, and they shall not be ashamed of religion: for it shall be glorified before the sons of men. Therefore it is said, Rev. 14, 'They shall have the name of God upon their foreheads, openly to profess religion; a time shall come when ten men shall take hold on the skirt of a Jew, and say, We will go with thee;' Cant. 8:1, 'I will kiss thee, yet should I not be despised.' She would embrace Christ publicly, and should not be despised. It shall be so honourable, as none shall be able to despise it. There are notable texts of Scripture to shew the great honour that shall be in the ways of religion: Isa. 49:23, 'Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and queens thy nursing mothers, they shall bow down to thee, and lick up the dust of thy feet.' What a high expression this is for the honour of godliness! So in Isa. 40 are a great many of notable expressions: verse 13, 'I will make the place of my feet glorious;' that is, the church. There was a time whenas the feet of Christ were as burning brass, to shew the suffering condition of the church. But now the feet of Christ, that is, the church, shall be made glorious, ver. 14. You have two notable scriptures for this in the prophecy of Zechariah. The first in the 9th of Zechariah, 16, 'They shall be as the stone of a crown lifted up.' They are now trampled upon as the stones of the street; but they shall be as the stones of a crown; and not only so, but as the stones of a crown lifted up. The second place is in Zech. 12:5, 'The governors of Judah shall say in their hearts, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord of hosts their God.' We know that now in many places the governors of Judah, the great ones of the country, their spirits have been set against the saints of God. We know what reproachful names they hare put upon them, and how they have discountenanced them. Though the governors of Judah have counted them factious, and schismatics, and puritans, there is a time coming, when the governors of Judah shall be convinced of the excellency of God's people; so convinced as to say in their hearts, that the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that is, the saints of God gathered together in a church, are the best commonwealths men: not seditious men, not factious, not disturbers of the state; but they are our strength in the Lord of hosts, they are the strength of a kingdom, and shall be countenanced by them as the strength of a kingdom, as those that will be most useful in a kingdom. This will be a blessed time, whenas wicked men and wickedness shall be despised, and godliness as honourable as ever it was contemptible: this shall be when the Lord God omnipotent reigneth in his church. And through God's mercy we see light peeping out this way, that the governors of Judah are saying, 'The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be our strength.' Religion shall be honoured in the world one day, and not only at the day of judgment, but here.
In the ninth place, the presence of Jesus Christ and of God shall be exceeding glorious in the church; then 'the name of it shall be called JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH, the Lord is there.' They shall follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth: they shall see the King in his beauty and glory. And such a presence of Christ will be there, as it is questionable whether there shall be need of ordinances, at least in that way that now there is. And therefore some interpret that place so: 'They shall be all taught of God, and shall not seed to teach one another.' And so that place, 2 Peter 1:19, 'We have also a more sure word of promise, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts.' Now the morning-star the Holy Ghost applies to them, Rev. 2:28, that is such a glorious presence of Christ, as shall so instruct them, as if they had not need to take heed to the word of prophecy. And in Rev. 21, 'They shall need no temple, nor sun, nor moon; for the Lamb is the temple and the light thereof;' the presence of Christ shall be there, and supply all kind of ordinances. And Rev. 7, Christ says, he will 'lead them to the fountain of living waters.' All the ordinances here are but the streams and conduits; then they shall be led to the fountain. Though we dare not affirm that there shall be no ordinances, yet is there some probability at least thus far in comparison; there shall be such a presence of Christ there, as there shall not be that need of ordinances.
In the tenth place, there shall be the addition of martyrs, and many of the worthies of God that have lived in former times shall rise again. If you read Rev. 7 and Rev. 21, you cannot but be convinced of this, that those that have suffered martyrdom under antichrist shall have the glory of that time; and Daniel shall come up and stand in his lot; and as he, so many of the worthies of God in former times; and this shall add to the glory of that time.
The eleventh is this: There shall be most blessed union of all the churches of the world. The envy of Ephraim and of Judah shall be taken away: Isa. 11, 'There shall be one king, and one name;' Zech. 14:9, we all profess one Lord, but give him divers names; but then there shall be one Lord, and his name one; Zeph. 3:9, 'They shall serve the Lord with one consent;' with one shoulder, it is in the original. And if you read that chapter, you may see what reference it hath to a more glorious time than the returning of the Jews from the captivity. Dissensions in any one congregation are evil; and for one church to dissent from another is a grievous evil. Blessed will the time be when all dissensions shall be taken away, and when there shall be a perfect union of all, and not any distinction of Calvinists or Lutherans, or the like: but all shall come and serve God, and be called by one name.
The twelfth is the resurrection of the creatures of the world; and so in that regard there shall be abundance of outward glory and prosperity. That place in the 8th of the Romans: 'The creature groans under the burden that it is in, that it may be delivered into the adoption of the sons of God;' when the fulness of the glory of the adoption of the sons of God shall come, the creatures shall be delivered to them. The whole world is purchased by Christ, and purchased for the saints, that is Christ's aim. 'All is yours' (says the apostle), 'the whole world;' and therefore, Rev. 21:7, it is said, 'The saints shall inherit all things.' You see that the saints have but little now in the world; now they are the poorest and the meanest of all; but then when the adoption of the sons of God shall come in the fulness of it, the world shall be theirs; for the world is purchased for them by Jesus Christ. Not only heaven shall be your kingdom, but this world bodily. And so that place, 2 Peter 3:10, where it is said, 'The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,' the apostle speaks as if it were the day of judgment. But there is one passage whereby we may gather that the apostle only means a mighty change that shall be before the day of judgment: verse 13, 'We according to his promise look for new heavens and new earth.' Where hath God promised a new heaven and a new earth? I know no place in Scripture that I can refer this place unto but Isa. 65:15, which is apparent to be meant of the church. Now the apostle speaks of these times when there shall be a mighty change in the world: then shall be fulfilled that promise, 'There shall be new heavens and a new earth.' We can find no such promise but in Isaiah, and that is meant of the church, and therefore it is probable the apostle means that Lactantius says, When the thousand years come, the world shall bring forth fruit alone, and the rock shall distil dew, and no creature shall live upon prey; the dog shall not hunt, the child shall not be afraid of the serpent: making the place of Isaiah, which we understand metaphorically, to be understood literally, of the wolf and the lambs living together, and the child playing upon the hole of the cockatrice.
And all the prayers that ever we put up for the church will be answered, and the blessing of all will come upon the churches. Here we have some degree of blessing: but the blessing of all the prayers of the prophets and apostles will come upon it. In Isaiah, they were to cry to God, and give him no rest, till he made Jerusalem the praise of the whole world; that is, till God did bring this time, and Jerusalem hath not been so lifted up. All these prayers that have not given God rest all this while shall be answered, and Jerusalem shall be advanced.
Lastly, Those glorious titles that the church of God hath in the Old Testament will be made up to the full; and that is a resultance from all the former. There are many glorious titles of the church of God in the Old Testament. Now, the estate of the church in the Old Testament was but typical, typifying the estate of the gospel. I shall name some of them, and when those come to be fulfilled it will be glorious; first, 'the Lord's portion,' Deut. 32:9; secondly, his 'pleasant portion,' Jer. 12:10; thirdly, his 'inheritance,' Isa. 19:25. All people are the work of his hands, but his church is his inheritance. Fourthly, the 'dearly beloved of his soul,' Jer. 12:7; fifthly, 'God's treasure,' and 'peculiar treasure,' Exod. 19:5; sixthly, his 'glory,' Isa. 46:13; seventhly, 'the house of God's glory,' Isa. 60:7; eighthly, 'a crown of glory,' Isa. 62:3; ninthly, 'a royal diadem,' in the same place; tenthly, 'the glory of God,' Jer. 3:17. Again, 'the throne of his glory,' Jer. 14:21. Again, 'the ornament of God,' and 'the beauty of his ornament,' Ezek. 7:21. Again, 'the beauty of his ornament in majesty,' in the same place. Now, to have all this made up to the full, to shew that these are no high expressions, but rather come short of what will be, it must be a glorious condition.
But you will say, Are these things true?
To that we answer: For the truth of them, I will go no further than this chapter, verse 9, 'These are the true sayings of God.' It is a very strange phrase; if they be the sayings of God, they must needs be true. Were it not enough to say they were the sayings of God, or true sayings? No, they are the true sayings of God. And in the original it is not only the true sayings of God, but the true sayings of that God that is true; therefore they are certain.
Quest. But how can they be?
Ans. Zech. 8:9, 'If it be marvellous in your eyes, should it also be marvellous in my eyes? faith the Lord of hosts.' They are marvellous in your eyes, but they are not so in mine. It is God omnipotent that shall do these things, by that power 'whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.' Mountains shall be made plain, and he shall come skipping over mountains, and over difficulties; nothing shall hinder him. And why should you think it strange that these things should be, though they be great? God hath done already as great things as these. Certainly Christians that shall acknowledge the great and never-sufficiently admired and adored work of God in the hypostatical union of the natures, that God should be man, should never ask this question, how these things should be, or to think that any object propounded for our faith is too difficult.
Quest. But when shall these things be?
Ans. Truly, brethren, we hope it is not long before they shall be; and the nearer the time comes the more clearly these things shall be revealed. And because they begin to be revealed so much as they do now, we have cause to hope the time is at hand. In Daniel 12, God bids Daniel seal his book until the time come, as if then it should be opened. Doth God begin to open this book? Know that the time is at hand. John was bidden not to seal the book, because the time was at hand. The nearness of the time at hand discovers the book; and the nearer the time, the more it is discovered. No place in Scripture gives us so much light to know when this shall be as Dan. 12:11, 'And from the time that the daily sacrifices shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.' What is the meaning of this? The light that I have from this, I acknowledge to be from that worthy instrument of God Mr Brightman. A day is usually taken for a year, and so many days as were set, so many years it should be. All the question is about the beginning of the time. This abomination of desolation was in Julian's time, in 360, because then Julian would set up the temple again, that was destroyed, in despite of the Christians, and would set up the Jewish religion again. That was the abomination of desolation, says he, and the whole Jewish religion was not consumed till that time. Now, reckon so many years according to the number of the days, it comes to 1650, and it is now 1641, and that place for the abomination of desolation is like to be it as any that can be named. But it is said, 'Blessed is he that comes to another number:' 1335 days, that is, 45 years more added; that is, says he, in 1650, they shall begin; but it shall be 45 years before it comes to full head, and blessed is he that comes to this day. And he hath hit right in other things, as never the like, in making Sardis to be the church of Germany, and foretold from thence how things would fall out, and we see now are. Now, we have also a voice from the multitude, as from the waters, and it begins to come from the thunderings.
Seeing these things shall be, what manner of persons ought we to be? That is the work I intended to have done, to have shewed you the duties these things call for at our hands. If God hath such an intention to glorify his church, and that in this world, oh, let every one say to his own heart, What manner of persons ought we to be! And especially, what manner of persons ought ye to be, because you are beginning this despised work, gathering a church together, which way God will honour. Certainly, the communion of saints and independency of congregations God will honour.
And this work is a foundation of abundance of glory that God shall have, and will continue till the coming of Christ. And blessed are they that are now content to keep the word of God's patience. And do you keep the word of God's patience, though you suffer for it, as you now do. And wait, the text says, those that testify against antichrist and antichristianism, and keep the word of God's patience, God will keep them in the hour of temptation, be will make them a pillar in his house, and they shall never go out; God will open their door, so as none shall shut it till the coming of Christ; and he will write upon them the name of the new Jerusalem. Therefore keep the word of God's patience, now you have an opportunity in your hands for furthering this great work. Take heed that you lose not this opportunity; certainly, if there should fall out any just cause amongst you of scandal in regard of divisions, or any other way, you may do more hurt to hinder this glorious work than all the persecutors could do. For you will persuade the consciences of men that this is not a way of Christ. Persecutors cannot do so. So that the governors of Judah will not say, Our strength is in the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all that profess themselves to be the people of Jerusalem.