Page images
PDF
EPUB

tions that take place in the kingdoms of this world, shall be finally subservient; yet the steps by which he is carrying forward his design, are, for the most part, remote from the common apprehensions of mankind; and, therefore, seldom engage their attention. His kingdom, founded upon the rock of ages, is building, advancing, and the gates of hell shall not be able to withstand its progress. Only detached and inconsiderable parts of the plan are as yet visible, and the beauties are every where obscured by attendant blemishes. But his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure. Princes and Atatesmen seldom think of him, are seldom aware that in prosecuting their own schemes, they are eventually fulfilling his purposes, and preparing the way to promote the cause which they despise, and often endeavour to suppress. But thus it is. Sometimes he employs them, more directly, as his instru. ments, and when they are thus engaged in his work, their success is secured. So Cyrus,' whom Ifajah mentioned by name *, long before his birth, as the appointed deliverer of Israel from their captivity, prospered in his enter

* Ifa. xlv. I~5. VOL. II.

prizes,

prizes, being guided and girded by him whom he knew not, and established his own power upon the ruins of the Affyrian monarchy. The Roman empire likewise increased and prospered from small beginnings, that a way might be opened, in the proper season, for the destruction of the Jewish deconomy, and for facilitating the preaching of the gospel. And posterity will see, that the principal events of the present age, in Asia and America, have all a tendency to bring forward the accomplishment of my text; and are leading to one grand point, the spreading and establishment of the church and kingdom of our Lord. His plan is unalterably fixed. He has faid it, and it shall be done. Things will not always remain in their prefent disordered state. And though this desirable period may be yet at a distance, and appearances very dark and unpromising, the word of the Lord shall prevail over all discouragements and opposition.

Prophecies, which are not yet fulfilled, will neceffarily be obscure. Many learned men have laboured to explain the prophecies in this book, to ascertain the facts which are foretold, and to fix the dates when they may

OTOK

be expected to take place. But they are so divided in their judgments, and with regard to several of the most eminent, who thus differ, the support their opinions derive from the character and abilities of the proposers is so nearly equal, that those who consult them are more likely to be embarrassed, than fatis. fied. For myself, I think it becomes me to confess my ignorance, and my inability, either to reconcile the conjectures of others, or to determine which is the more probable, or to propose better of my own. I do not, therefore, undertake to give the precise sense of this passage, as it stands connected with the rest of the chapter. Nor should I, perhaps, have attempted to preach from it, but upon this occasion. It is introduced, with great propriety, in the Meffiah, as a close to the second part, which begins with a view of the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world, by the power of his priestly office; and concludes with an account of his glorious fuccess as the King of kings, and Lord of lords. . My business is only to lead you to some pleasing and profitable reflections, upon this subject, now it comes in my way. There

[ocr errors]

’s are many prophecies in the Old Testament, that speak in magnificent strains of a kingdom, which God would, in his appointed time, establish upon the earth; the sense of which is greatly weakened and narrowed, if restrained, as some commentators would restrain it, to the restoration of Israel to their own land, from their captivity in Babylon. Yet it must be allowed, that the highly figurative language in which many of these prophecies are expressed, a great part of which cannot be understood literally, renders the interpretation difficult.

What we read in the twentieth chapter of this book, of a period in which the saints shall reign with Christ during a thousand years, has given occasion to almost a thousand conjectures, concerning a millennian state. Some persons. suppose, that the present frame of nature shall be dissolved and changed, and expect a proper resurrection of the dead; after which, the Lord will personally reign with his people upon the earth, when purified by fire, and restored to its primitive perfection and beauty. If so, earth will be heaven; for the state of happiness believers are taught to hope for, depends

not

IS

not upon local circumstances, but chiefly consists in the enjoyment of his unveiled immediate presence, and in beholding his glory. Others, seem to conceive of the millennium, nearly in the same manner as the Jews formed their expectations of MESSIAH's kingdom. They think that temporal honours, dominion, prosperity, and wealth, will then be the portion of believers ; the very portion, which they are now called upon to renounce and despise. But, as I have hinted, large allowances must be made, for the metaphorical language of prophecy. We read that the streets of the New Jerusalem are paved with gold, and that the twelve gates are twelve pearls * ; but no person of found judgment can suppose, that this description is to be understood strictly, according to the letter. The personal presence of MESSIAH with his people, is not pecessary to such degrees of happiness, as are compatible with the present state of mortality and imperfection. It is sufficient, if he vouchsafes to dwell with them by his Spirit. Much less are temporal dominion and wealth, necessary, to the prosperity and honour of his spiritual

* Rev. xxi. 15, 216

03 kingdom.

« PreviousContinue »