A view of other places of Scripture concerning the Millennium or future kingdom of Christ. In what sence all the Prophets have born Testimony concerning it.
THE Wife of Zebedee came to our Saviour,Matt. 20. 21. and begg’d of him, like a fond Mother, that her two Sons might sit, one at his right hand, th’other at his left, when he came into his kingdom. Our Saviour does not deny the supposition, or general ground of her request, that he was to have a kingdom; but tells her, The honours of that kingdom were not then in his disposal. He had not drunk his Cup, nor been baptiz’d with his last baptism: which were conditions, both to him and others, of entring into that kingdom. Yet, in another place,Matt. 19. 28. our Saviour is so well assur’d of his interest and authority there, by the good will of his Father, that he promises to his Disciples and followers, that for the losses they should sustain here, upon his account, and for the sake of his Gospel, they should receive there an hundred fold; and sit upon Thrones with him, judging the Tribes of Israel. The words are these: And Jesus said unto them, verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the Regeneration or Renovation, when the Son of man shall sit in the Throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. These Thrones, in all reason, must be understood to be the same with those which we mention’d in the foregoing Chapter, out of Daniel and the Apocalypse:Dan. 7. 9.
Apoc. 20. 4. and therefore mark the same time and the same state. And seeing, in those places, they plainly signified the Millennial state, or the kingdom of Christ and of his Saints, they must here signifie the same, in this promise of our Saviour to his suffering Followers. And as to the word Palingenesia, which is here translated Regeneration, ’tis very well known, that, both the Greek Philosophers, and Greek Fathers, use that very word for the Renovation of the World. Which is to be, as we shall hereafter make appear, at or before the Millennial state.
Our Saviour also, in his Divine Sermon upon the Mount, makes this one of his Beatitudes, Blessed are the Meek, for they shall inherit the Earth. But how, I pray, or where, or when, do the Meek inherit the Earth? neither at present, I am sure, nor in any past Ages. ’Tis the Great Ones of the World, ambitious Princes and Tyrants, that slice the Earth amongst them: and those that can flatter them
best, or serve them in their interests or pleasures, have the next best shares. But a meek, modest, and humble Spirit, is the most unqualified Person that can be for a Court, or a Camp: to scramble for Preferment, or Plunder. Both He, and his self-denying notions, are ridicul’d, as things of no use, and proceeding from meanness and poorness of Spirit. David, who was a Person of an admirable devotion, but of an unequal Spirit; subject to great dejections, as well as elevations of mind; was so much affected with the prosperity of the wicked in this World, that he could scarce forbear charging Providence with injustice. You may see several touches of a repining Spirit in his Psalms: and in the Seventy-third Psalm, compos’d upon that Subject, you have both the wound and the cure. Now this Beatitude pronounc’d here by our Saviour, was spoken before by David, Psal. 37. 11. The same David that was always so sensible of the hard usage of the Just in this life. Our Saviour also, and his Apostles, preach the Doctrine of the Cross every where, and foretell the sufferings that shall attend the Righteous, in this World. Therefore neither David, nor our Saviour, could understand this inheritance of the Earth, otherwise than of some future state, or of a state yet to come. But as it must be a future state, so it must be a Terrestrial state; for it could not be call’d the inheritance of the Earth, if it was not so. And ’tis to be a state of peace, as well as plenty, according to the words of the Psalmist, But the meek shall inherit the Earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. It follows therefore from these premisses, that, both our Saviour, and David, must understand some future state of the Earth, wherein the Meek will enjoy both peace and plenty. And this will appear to be the future kingdom of Christ, when, upon a fuller description, we shall have given you the marks and characters of it.
In the mean time, why should we not suppose, this Earth, which the Meek are to inherit, to be that habitable Earth to come, which St. Paul mentions (Hebr. 2. 6.) and represents as subject to our Saviour in a peculiar manner: at his disposal and under his government, as his kingdom; Why should not that Earth be the subject of this Beatitude: The promis’d Land, the Lot of the Righteous? This I am sure of, that both this Text and the former deserve our serious thoughts; and tho’ they do not expresly, and in terms, prove the future kingdom of our Saviour, yet upon the fairest interpretations they imply such a state. And it will be very uneasie to give a satisfactory account, either of the Regeneration or Renovation, when our Saviour and his Disciples shall sit upon Thrones: Or of that Earth which the Meek shall inherit: Or lastly, of that Habitable World, which is peculiarly subject to the dominion of Jesus Christ, without supposing, on this side Heaven, some other reign of Christ and his Saints, than what we see, or what they enjoy, at present.
But to proceed in this argument. It will be necessary, as I told you, to set down some notes and characters of this Reign of Christ and of his Saints, whereby it may be distinguish’d from the present state, and present kingdoms of the World. And these characters are chiefly three, Justice, Peace, and Divine Presence or conduct, which uses to be called Theocrasie. By these characters it is sufficiently distinguish’d from the kingdoms of this World; which are generally unjust in
their titles or exercise: stain’d with bloud: and so far from being under a particular divine conduct, that humane passions and humane vices, are the Springs that commonly give motion to their greatest designs. But more particularly and restrainedly, the Government of Christ, is opposed to the kingdom and government of Antichrist, whose characters are diametrically opposite to these, being injustice, cruelty, and humane or diabolical artifices.
Upon this short view of the kingdom of Christ, let us make enquiry after it amongst the Prophets of the Old Testament. And we shall find, upon examination, that there is scarce any of them, greater or lesser, but take notice of this mystical kingdom; either expresly, or under the types of Israel, Sion, Jerusalem, and such like. And therefore I am apt to think, that, when St. Peter in his Sermon to the Jews, Act. 3. says, All the holy Prophets spoke of The Restitution of all things, he does not mean the Renovation of the World separately from the kingdom of Christ, but complexly, as it may imply both. For there are not many of the old Prophets that have spoken of the Renovation of the Natural World; but a great many have spoken of the Renovation of the Moral, in the kingdom of Christ. These are St. Peter's words: Act. 3. 19, 20, 21. Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you: whom the heavens must receive until the times of RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS. The Apostle here mentions three things, The Times of refreshing, The Second Coming of our Saviour, And the Times of Restitution of all things. And to the last of these he immediately subjoins, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy Prophets, since the world began. This Restitution of all things, I say, must not be understood abstractly from the reign of Christ, but as in conjunction with it; and in that sence, and no other, it is the general subject of the Prophets.
To enter therefore into the Schools of the Prophets, and enquire their sence concerning this mystery, let us first address our selves to the Prophet Isaiah, and the Royal Prophet David; who seem to have had many noble thoughts, or inspirations, upon this subject. Isaiah in the 65th chap. from the 17th ver. to the end, treats upon this argument: and joyns together the Renovation of the Natural and Moral World; as St. Peter, in the place forementioned, seems to do. And accordingly the Prophet, having set down several natural characters of that State, as indolency and joy, longevity, ease, and plenty, from ver. 18. to the 24th. He there begins the moral characters, of divine favour, and such a particular protection, that they are heard and answer’d before they pray. And lastly, He represents it as a state of universal peace and innocency, ver. 23. The Wolf and the Lamb shall feed together, &c.
This last character, which comprehends Peace, Justice, and Innocency, is more fully display’d by the same Prophet, in the i a th chap. where he treats also of the Kingdom of Christ. Give me leave to set down his words, ver. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the Earth: and he shall smite the Earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of
his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The Wolf also shall dwell with the Lamb, and the Leopard shall lye down with the kid: and the Calf and the young Lyon, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the Cow and the Bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together: and the Lyon shall eat straw like the Ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the Asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the Cockatrice-den. They shall not hurt, nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the Earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the Sea. Thus far the Prophet: Now if we joyn this to what we noted before, from his 65th chap. concerning the same state, ’twill be impossible to understand it of any order of things, that is now, or hath been hitherto in the World. And consequently it must be the Idea of some state to come, and particularly of that which we call the Future Kingdom of Christ.
The same pacifick temper, Innocency and Justice, are celebrated by this Prophet when the Mountain of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, chap. 2. 2, 4. And he shall judge amongst the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. And as to righteousness, he says in the 23. chap. Behold a king shall reign in righteousness, and Princes shall rule in judgment, &c. These places, I know, usually are applyed to the first coming of our Saviour; the peaceableness of his doctrine, and the propagation of it through all the World. I willingly allow this to be a true sence, so far as it will go. But ’tis one thing to be a true sence, to such a degree; and another thing to be the final sence and accomplishment of a Prophecy. The affairs of the first and second coming of our Saviour are often mingled together in the Prophecies of the Old Testament; but in that mixture there are some characters whereby you may distinguish what belongs to his first, and what to his second coming: what to the time when he came to suffer, and what to the time when he shall come to reign. For instance, In these Prophecies recited, though there are many things very applicable to his first coming, yet that Regality which is often spoken of, and that universal Peace and Innocency that will accompany it, cannot be verified of his coming in the flesh. Seeing it is plain, that in his state of humiliation he did not come as a King, to rule over the nations of the Earth. And he says himself expresly,Matt. 20. 21.
Luke 23. 42. That his Kingdom is not of this World. Joh. 18. 36. And the Prayer of Salome, and of the good Thief upon the Cross, suppose it not then present, but to come. Then as to the establishment of Peace in his kingdom, it does not at all appear to me that there is more peace in the World now than there was before our Saviour came into it; or that the Christian parts of the World are more peaceable than the unchristian. Therefore these great promises of a Pacifick kingdom, which are exprest in terms as high and emphatical as can be imagin’d, must belong to some other days, and some other ages, than what we have seen hitherto.
You’l say, it may be, ’tis not the fault of the Gospel that the World is not peaceable, but of those that profess it, and do not practise it. This is true, but it does not answer the Prophecy; for that makes no such exception. And by such a reserve as this, you may elude any Prophecy. So the Jews say, Their Messiah
defers his coming beyond the time appointed by Prophecy, because of their sins: but we do not allow this for a good reason. The Israelites had their promised Canaan, tho’ they had render’d themselves unworthy of it; and by this method of interpreting Prophecies, all the happiness and glory promised in the Millennial kingdom of Christ may come to nothing, upon a pretended forfeiture. Threatnings indeed may have a tacit condition; God may be better than his word, and, upon repentance, divert his judgments; but he cannot be worse than his word, or fail of performance, when, without any condition exprest, he promises or prophesies good things to come. This would destroy all assurance of hope or faith. Lastly, This Prophecy concerning Pacifick times or a Pacifick kingdom, is in the 65th chap.Isa. 65. subjoyn’d to the Renovation of the Heavens and the Earth, and several marks of a change in the Natural World; which things we know did not come to pass at the first coming of our Saviour: there was no change of Nature then, nor has been ever since. And therefore this happy change, both in the Natural and Moral World, is yet to come.
But, as we said before, we do not speak this exclusively of the first coming of our Saviour, as to other parts of these Prophecies; for no doubt that was one great design of them. And in the Prophecies of the old Testament, there are often three gradations, or gradual accomplishments; The first, in some King of Israel, or some Person or affair relating to Israel, as National onely. The second, in the Messiah at his first coming. And the last, in the Messiah, and his Kingdom at his second coming. And that which we affirm and contend for, is, that the Prophecies foremention’d have not a final and total accomplishment, either in the Nation of the Jews, or at the first coming of our Saviour. And this we ’bide by.
The next Prophet that we mention’d, as a witness of the future kingdom of Christ, is David. Who, in his Psalms, seems to be pleas’d with this subject above all others; And when he is most exalted in his thoughts and Prophetical raptures, the Spirit carries him into the kingdom of the Messiah, to contemplate its glory, to sing praises to its King, and triumph over his Enemies: Psal. 68. Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: Let them also that hate him flie before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the Righteous be glad, &c. The plain ground he goes upon in this Psalm, is the Deliverance out of Ægypt, and bringing the Israelites into the Land of Canaan; But when he is once upon the wing, he soars to an higher pitch: from the type to the Antitype:Ver. 18. To the days of the Messiah, the Ascension of our Saviour; and, at length, to his kingdom and dominion over all the Earth. The 45th. PsalmVer. 32, &c. is an Epithalamium to Christ and the Church, or to the Lamb and his Spouse. And when that will be, and in what state, we may learn from St. John, Apoc. 19. 7, 8. and ch. 21. 2, 9. Namely, after the destruction of Babylon, in the new Jerusalem glory. The words and matter of the two Prophets answer to one another; Here, in this Psalm, there is a fight and victory celebrated, as well as a marriage: and so there is in that 19th. Chapter of St. John. Here,Ps. 45. 3, 4, 6. the Prophet says, Gird thy Sword upon thy thigh, O most Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy Majesty ride prosperously, because of truth and meekness and righteousness: and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thy
[paragraph continues] Throne, O God, is for ever and ever; The Scepter of thy kingdom is a right Scepter, &c. There St. John says,Apoc. 19. 15, 16. having describ’d a Conquerour on a white Horse, Out of his mouth goeth a sharp Sword, that with it he should smite the Nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of Iron: and he treadeth the Wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his Vesture and on his thigh a Name written, KING of KINGS, and LORD of LORDS. This is the same glorious Conquerour and Bridegroom in both places: And this Victory is not gain’d, nor these Nuptials compleated till the second coming of our Saviour.
In many other Psalms, there are reflections upon this happy kingdom, and the triumph of Christ over his Enemies: as Psal. 2. Psal. 9. Psal. 21. and 24. and 47. and 85. and 110. and others. In these, and such like Psalms, there are lineaments and colours of a fairer state, than any we have yet seen upon Earth. Not but that in their first instances and grounds they may sometimes respect the state of Israel, or the Evangelical state: but the eye of the Prophet goes further, this does not terminate his sight: His Divine enthusiasme reaches into another World: A world of Peace and Justice, and Holiness: of Joy, and Victory, and Triumph over all the wicked: and consequently such a World, as neither we, nor our Fathers, have yet seen.
This is an account of two Prophets, David and Isaiah: and of what they have more openly declar’d concerning the future kingdom of Christ. But to verifie St. Peter's words, in that foremention’d place, Act. 3. 21. viz. that all the Holy Prophets since the World began, have spoken of the Restauration of all things at the second coming of Christ. I say, to verifie this assertion of St. Peter's, we must suppose, that, where the Prophets speak of the Restauration and future glory of Judah and Jerusalem, they do, under those Types, represent to us the glory and happiness of the Church in the future kingdom of Christ. And most of the Prophets, in this sence, and under these forms, have spoken of this kingdom: In foretelling the Restauration of Jerusalem and Sion; and happy days, peace, plenty, and prosperity to the People of Israel.
Most of the Prophets, I say, from Moses to Malachy, have spoken of this Restauration. Moses in the 30th. of Deut. ver. 4, 5, 9. David, in many of those Psalms we have cited. Isaiah, besides the places foremention’d, treats amply of this subject, Chap. 51. and in several other places. 1 So likewise the Prophet Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Zephany, Haggai, Zachary, Malachy. All these have, either expresly, or under the types of Jerusalem and Sion, foretold happy days, and a glorious triumph to the Church of God. And seeing in the new Testament, and in the Prophecies of St. John, the Christian Church is still represented, as under persecution and distress, till the fall of Anti-christ, and the Millennial Kingdom; ’Tis then, and not till then, that we must expect the full accomplishment of these Prophecies; The Restauration that St. Peter says was spoken of, by all the Prophets: and the mystery, which St. John says, (Apoc. 10. 7.) was declared by his Servants the Prophets, and would be finish’d under the 7th. Trumpet, which ushers in the Kingdom of Christ.
It would be too long to examine all these places in the Prophets, which you may consult at leisure. However it cannot seem strange that Jerusalem should be us’d in a typical or allegorical sence, seeing we often find such applications of it in the new Testament: as Gal. 4. 26. Hebr. 12. 22. Apoc. 3. 12. And ’tis very natural that Jerusalem restor’d, should signifie the same thing as New Jerusalem; and therefore that St. John, by his New Jerusalem, intended the same thing, or the same state, that the ancient Prophets did by their Restauration of Jerusalem. And if neither can be understood in a literal sence, which, I believe, you will not contend for: they must both be interpreted of the future happiness and glory of the Church in the Kingdom of Christ.
But to conclude this point wholly as to Scripture; If we make reflection upon all the passages alledg’d in this and the foregoing Chapter, whether out of the Old or New Testament, we must at least acknowledge thus much; That there are happy days, at one time or other: Days of Peace and Righteousness: of Joy and Triumph: of external Prosperity and internal Sanctity: when Vertue and Innocency shall be in the Throne, and Vice and vitious Men out of power or credit. That there are such happy days prophesied of in Scripture, and promised to the Church of God. Whether you call this the Reign of Christ and of his Saints, or by any other name, it is not material at present to determine; let the title be what you will, as to the substance it cannot be denied to be a general doctrine of Prophetical Scripture. And we must not imagine, that the Prophets writ like the Poets: feigned an Idea of a Romantick state, that never was, nor ever will be; only to please their own fancies, or the credulous people. Neither is it the state of Heaven and eternal life that is here meant or intended: For, besides that they had little or no light concerning those Notions, in the Old Testament: The Prophets generally in their description of this happiness, either express the Earth, or at least give plain marks of a Terrestrial state. Wherefore the only question that remains, is this, Whether these happy Days are past already, or to come: Whether this blessed state of the Church is behind us, or before us: whether our predecessors have enjoy’d it, or our posterity is to expect it? For we are very sure that it is not present; The World is full of Wars, and rumours of wars: of vice and knavery, of oppression and persecution: and these are things directly contrary to the genius and characters of the state which we look after.
And if we look for it in times past, we can go no further back than the beginning of Christianity. For St. John, the last of the Apostles, prophesied of these times, as to come: and plac’d them at the end of his systeme of Prophecies; whereby one might conclude that they are not only within the compass of the Christian ages, but far advanc’d into them. But however, not to insist upon that at present, where will you find a thousand years, from the birth of Christianity to this present age, that deserves the name, or answers to the characters of this Pure and Pacifick state of the Church. The first ages of Christianity, as they were the most pure, so likewise were they the least peaceable. Continually, more or less, under the Persecution of the Heathen Emperours; and so far from being the reign and Empire of Christ and his Saints over the Nations, that Christians were then, every where, in subjection or slavery; A poor, feeble, helpless people,
thrust into Prisons, or thrown to the Lyons, at the pleasure of their Princes or Rulers. ’Tis true, when the Empire became Christian under Constantine, in the fourth Century, there was, for a time, peace and prosperity in the Church, and a good degree of Purity and Piety. But that peace was soon disturb’d, and that piety soon corrupted. The growing pride and ambition of the Ecclesiasticks, and their easiness to admit or introduce Superstitious Practices, destroy’d the purity of the Church. And as to the peace of it, Their contests about opinions and doctrines, tore the Christians themselves into pieces; and, soon after, an inundation of Barbarous People fell into Christendom, and put it all into flames and confusion. After this Eruption of the Northern Nations, Mahometanism rose in the East; and swarms of Saracens, like armies of Locusts, invaded, conquer’d, and planted their religion in several parts of the Roman Empire and of the Christianiz’d World. And can we call such times the Reign of Christ, or the imprisonment of Satan? In the following ages, the Turks over-run the Eastern Empire and the Greek Church, and still hold that miserable people in slavery. Providence seems to have so order’d affairs, that the Christian World should never be without a WOE upon it, lest it should fansie it self already in those happy days of Peace and Prosperity, which are reserv’d for future times. Lastly, whosoever is sensible of the corruptions and persecutions of the Church of Rome, since she came to her greatness; whosoever allows her to be mystical Babylon, which must fall before the kingdom of Christ comes on; will think that kingdom duly plac’d by St. John at the end of his Prophecies, concerning the Christian Church: and that there still remains, according to the words of St. Paul, (Hebr. 4. 9.) a Sabbatism to the people of God.
344:1 Isaiah ch. 11, ch. 43. ch. 49. 13, &c. ch. 66. Ezekiel, ch. 28. ch. 37. Hos. ch. 3, & ch. 14. Joel 3. 18. Amos, ch. 9. Obad. ver. 17, &c. Mich. ch. 4. ch. 5. Zeph. 3. 14, &c. Haggai, ch. 2. Zac. 2. 10, &c. & ch. 9. 9, &c. & ch. 14. Mala. ch. 3. ch. 4.