Page images
PDF
EPUB

dom; and there will be no enemies, opposers, or false teachers, to harass, corrupt, or divide them. Whether the Church will then be separated into what may be called different denominations of Christians, is a question which I shall not attempt particularly to discuss. Without doubt, when the spirit is thus poured out from on high, the Church will revert to its original simplicity, unity, harmony, and love; and will, in a much more proper and strict sense, be one again than it is at present. Every thing antichristian will be abolished and destroyed : every thing antiscriptural will be annihilated ; every erroneous doctrine and unholy practice will give way to the prevalence of truth and righteousness. But how far there will be a perfect uniformity in church order and discipline, is another question. On this subject the Scripture is silent; and, therefore, it becomes us to be silent likewise. If, however, any variety should prevail in different nations, or different congregations, in the one church of Christ, they will be such as are non-essential ; and, instead of exciting disapprobation and bigotry, they will only tend to increase the exercise of humility, forbearance, candour, and universal love. I do not assert that any such differences will or will not exist ; but merely state my conviction, that, if they do, they will promote universal good, be perfectly consistent with an abundant out-pouring of the Spirit, and in no case stand in opposition to the express will of God, as revealed in the unalterable canon of divine truth.

16 But the rest of the dead lived not again until “the thousand years were finished. This is the “ first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that “ hath part in the first resurrection ; on such the “ second death hath no power, but they shall be " priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with “ him a thousand years."--What is meant by the phrase, the rest of the dead? In this prophecy mention is made of two sorts of dead persons; those who were slain for the witness of Jesus, and those who were slain by the sword of him that sat on the horse. The former were raised to life, and lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the others lived not again till the thousand years were finished : they were subdued, they lost all their power and authority, and they had no successors to survive them of the same wicked, active, and persevering spirit with themselves, till the devil was let loose again after the millennium. This is the first resurrection; not a literal, but a figurative one. The phrase does not imply a real and proper resurrection, as the advocates for the literal interpretation argue. But this figurative language is used, as Doddridge and other expositors suppose, to promote that wise and proper obscurity, which is suitable to the prophecies of this book, and which is found in a greater or less degree in the prophecies in general previously to their accomplishment. This first resurrection, therefore, is mystical and spiritual ; and those who partake of it, living in these happy times, will be blessed, and holy, and spiritual, in a degree superior to Christians in all preceding ages. A first resurrection doubtless implies a second; as much as a second death implies a first. But, as the first and second deaths are different in their nature, so, likewise, are the first and second resurrections. The first death is literal and real ; the second, mystical and figurative. The first resurrection is mystical and figurative; the second, literal and real. The second death shall have no power over those who partake of the first resurrection; but this evidently implies that they must enter heaven by passing through the first death. The language that follows is not different from what is used respecting believers of other times, except that they shall reign with Christ a thousand years, which merely implies that a succession of such triumphant Christians, made blessed and happy by the spiritual presence of Christ, shall coutinue through the millennium; in like manner as the two witnesses are represented as prophesying in sackcloth through the whole period of the reign of Antichrist. The first resurrection, it has been said, implies a second; and this latter will be the literal resurrection of the just and the unjust at the general judgment predicted at the close of this chapter, when “the sea, and death, and hell, shall give up " their dead, and they shall be judged according to “ their works.” Then the wicked shall be raised to die a second death; but over those who have part in the first resurrection, the second death shall have no power. As a pledge of their victory, they are already made priests of God and of Christ upon earth; and they shall reign in prosperity and felicity, blessed with the spiritual presence of the Redeemer, from generation to generation for a thousand years. “ Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first " resurrection." D IS

[graphic]
[graphic]

99 His Having thus illustrated the general nature of the millennium, as it is now understood by most of the modern commentators, I shall proceed more specifically to illustrate it in some of its blessed effects. In doing this I shall confine myself to particulars that may be collected from this and other prophecies in the word of God, in which this blessed era of the future glory of the Church is predicted and described.

In the first place, during the millennial reign, Satan will be bound and deprived of his power to tempt and destroy men.Hitherto the malignant influence of the fallen and apostate angels, acting upon the corruption and deprayity of human nature, has been exemplified and illustrated in the state of the world ever since the apostacy of the original parents of mankind. In opposition to the proud reasoning of man on the subject, the power of these malignant beings has been sufficiently demonstrated by the manner in which they have in all ages led immense multitudes of the race of men captive at their will. The inefficacy of all human inventions, and even of the word of truth itself (independent of the agency of the Spirit of truth), to preserve men from their temptations and influence, has been sufficiently manifested by the history of the world and of the Church, The trial between the moral powers of man and the agency of these spirits of wickedness, has been amply permitted; and the event of the trial has manifested that nothing but the power of God himself can preserve men from the temptations, the agency, and the influence of these fallen but mighty spirits. But, at length, the Lord will arise, and by the omnipotence of his providence will confine these apostate angels in the abyss, so that they shall not tempt nor pervert the minds of men for the space of a thousand years. He who has the key of the bottomless pit of darkness, misery, and despair, will seize and arrest the “ great dragon, the old serpent, “ which is the devil and Satan,” together with all his legions, and restrain them from doing mischief, either by seduction or violence, during the predicted period. He will cast them down into the unfathomable deep of confinement and horror, and shut them up in the prison of hell; that they may no longer, as in times past, go about seeking whom they may devour, nor any more delude and mislead the nations of the earth into iniquity, error, cruelty, or persecution, till the thousand years shall be expired. “Sing, “ O heavens, and rejoice, O earth;" for the enemy is cast down, and the Lord hath comforted his “ people.”

[graphic]

Secondly, during the millennium the Holy Spirit will be poured out in a most abundant measure and degree. The restraining of Satan is not sufficient of itself to heal the corruption of human nature. But “ the Spirit shall be poured out from on high, and " the wilderness shall become a fruitful field, and

[graphic]

" the fruitful field be counted for a forest *." All true religion is produced by the Spirit of God. This holy Agent, therefore, will be the efficient cause of producing all the sanctity of the millennium, both in its commencement and its continuance. To restrain men from sin, and to generate in them the principles of piety, requires more than human power. Hence, our Lord declares, “ except a man be born “ again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see “ nor enter into the kingdom of God." But the Spirit, during the period of the millennium, will be poured out in the most copious and efficient manner, so that all idolatry, infidelity, impiety, superstition, heresy, false religion, injustice, fraud, oppression, cruelty, war, together with all other moral evils which now harass and desolate the earth, will be restrained by his omnipotent operation. By his divine agency, godliness, righteousness, peace, truth, purity, and love, will render the earth in some measure like heaven itself. By his energetic power he will newcreate men all over the world; and then repentance, faith, and holiness, will as certainly prevail, as impenitence, unbelief, and unholiness, have in the past ages of the world. Still, however, Christianity will be the religion of sinners. Hence there may be still some defects and sins in believers; for men will not be born holy, but be made so by regeneration and grace. They will, therefore, continue exposed to some natural evils, as well as to death. Yet the prevalence of true Christianity will produce such a measure of righteousness and holiness in the world, that moral and natural evil will be diminished far beyond our present conceptions. All these blessed effects, however, will be produced by the Holy Spirit. Hence it is predicted, “And it shall come to pass “afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all

flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall

* Isa. xxxii. 15.

« PreviousContinue »