Sivut kuvina

istry that the Gentiles were called, and the gospel spread through the world. Our nation, and the other nations of Europe, have the gospel among them chiefly through his means; and he was more employed by the Holy Ghost in revealing the glorious doctrines of the gospel by his writings, for the use of the church in all ages, than all the other apostles taken together.

VIII. The next thing I would observe, is the institution of ecclesiastical councils, for deciding controversies, and ordering the affairs of the church of Christ, of which we have an account in the 15th chapter of Acts.

IX. The last thing I shall mention under this head, is the committing the New Testament to writing. This was all written after the resurrection of Christ by the apostles themselves, except the gospels of Mark and Luke, and the book of the Acts. He that wrote the gospel of Mark, is supposed to be the son of Mary, in whose house they were praying for Peter, when he, brought out of prison by the angel, came and knocked at the door; of which we read, Acts xii. 12. "And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John, whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together, praying." He was the companion of the apostles Barnabas and Paul: Acts xv. 37. "And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.” -He was Barnabas's sister's son, and seems some time to have been a companion of the apostle Paul: Col. iv. 10. "Aristarchus, my fellow-prisoner, saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas; touching whom ye received commandment: if he come unto you, receive him." The apostles seem to have made great account of him, as appears by those places, and also by Acts xii. 25. "And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark ;" and Acts xiii. 5. "And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they had also John to their minister ;" and, 2 Tim. iv. 11. "Only Luke is with me: take Mark and bring him with thee; for he is profitable to me for the ministry."

He who wrote the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts was a great companion of the apostle Paul. Beside the lastmentioned place, he speaks of himself as accompanying Paul in his travels, and therefore speaks in the first person plural; We went to such a place; we set sail, &c. He was greatly beloved by the apostle Paul; he is that beloved physician spoken of, Col. iv. 14. The apostle ranks Mark and Luke among his fellow-labourers, Philemon 24. "Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellow-labourers."

The books of the New Testament are either historical, doctrinal, or prophetical. The historical books are the writings

of the four evangelists, giving us the history of Christ, his purchase of redemption, his resurrection and ascension; and the Acts of the Apostles, giving an account of the great things by which the Christian church was first established and propagated. The doctrinal books are the epistles; most of which we have from the great apostle Paul. And we have one prophetical book, which takes place after the end of the history of the whole Bible, and gives an account of the great events which were to come to pass, by which the work of redemption was to be carried on to the end of the world.

All these books are supposed to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, excepting those which were written by the apostle John, who lived the longest of all the apostles, and who wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem, as is supposed. To this beloved disciple it was that Christ revealed those wonderful things which were to come to pass in his church to the end of time; and he was the person who put the finishing hand to the canon of scripture, and sealed the whole of it. So that now the canon of scripture, that great and standing written rule, which was begun about Moses' time, is completed and settled, and a curse denounced against him that adds any thing to it, or diminishes any thing from it. And so all the stated means of grace were finished in the apostolical age, or before the death of the apostle John, and are to remain unaltered to the day of judgment. Thus far we have consider. ed those things by which the means of grace were given and established in the Christian church.


How the Success was carried on.

FROM Christ's resurrection till the fall of Antichrist, is the appointed day of Zion's troubles. During this space of time, some part or other of the church is under persecution; and great part of the time, the whole church, or at least the generality of God's people, have been persecuted. For the first

three hundred years after Christ, the church was for the most part in a state of great affliction, the object of reproach and persecution: first by the Jews, and then by the Heathen.After this, from the beginning of Constantine's time, the church had rest and prosperity for a little while: which is represented in Rev. vii. at the beginning, by the angel's holding the four winds for a little while. But presently after, the church again suffered persecution from the Arians. After that, Antichrist rose, the church was driven away into the wilderness, was kept down in obscurity, contempt, and suffering,

[blocks in formation]

for a long time before the reformation by Luther and others. And since the Reformation, the church's persecutions have been beyond all that ever were before. And though some parts of God's church sometimes have had rest, yet, to this day, for the most part, the true church is very much kept under by its enemies, and some parts of it under grievous persecution. And so we may expect it will continue till the fall of Antichrist. Then will come the appointed day of the church's prosperity on earth, the set time in which God will favour Zion, the time when the saints shall not be kept under by wicked men, but wherein they shall reign, as it is said, Rev. v. 10. "And the kingdom shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High," Dan. vii. 27.

The suffering state of the church is in scripture represented as a state of the church's travail, (John xvi. 20, 21. and Rev. xii, 1, 2.) striving to bring forth that glory and prosperity which shall be after the fall of Antichrist, and then shall she bring forth her child. This is a long time of the church's trouble and affliction, though it be but for a little season, in comparison of the eternal prosperity of the church. Hence under the long continuance of this affliction, she cries out, (Rev. vi. 10.) "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" And we are told, that "white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." So Dan. xii. 6. "How long shall it be to the end of these wonders ?"

It is to be observed, that during the time of these sufferings of the church, the main instrument of their sufferings has been the Roman government. Rome, therefore, in the New Testament, is called Babylon; because, as of old, the troubles of the city of Jerusalem were mainly from that adverse city, Babylon, so the troubles of the christian church, the spiritual Jerusalem, during the long time of its tribulation, is mainly from Rome. Before the time of Constantine, the troubles of the Christian church were from Heathen Rome; since that time, its troubles have been mainly from Antichristian Rome. And as of old, the captivity of the Jews ceased on the destruction of Babylon, so the time of the trouble of the Christian church will cease with the destruction of the church of Rome, that spiritual Babylon.


The Success of Redemption from the Resurrection of Christ to the Destruction of Jerusalem.

I WOULD now show, how the success of Christ's purchase of redemption was carried on from Christ's resurrection to the destruction of Jerusalem. In speaking of this I would,1. Take notice of the success itself; and, 2. The opposition made against it by its enemies; and, 3. The terrible judgments of God on those enemies.

I. I would observe the success itself. Soon after Christ had entered into the holy of holies with his own blood, there began a glorious success of what he had done and suffered.Having undermined the foundation of Satan's kingdom, it began to fall apace. Swiftly did it hasten to ruin, which might well be compared to Satan's falling like lightning from heaven. Satan before had exalted his throne very high in this world, even to the very stars of heaven, reigning with great glory in his Heathen Roman empire; but never before had he such a downfall as he had soon after Christ's ascension. He had, we may suppose, been very lately triumphing in a supposed victory, having brought about the death of Christ, which he doubtless gloried in as the greatest feat that ever he did; and probably imagined he had totally defeated God's design by him. But he was quickly made sensible, that he had only been ruining his own kingdom, when he saw it tumbling so fast so soon after, as a consequence of the death of Christ. For Christ, having ascended, and received the Holy Spirit, poured it forth abundantly for the conversion of thousands and millions of souls.

Never had Christ's kingdom been so set up in the world. There probably were more souls converted in the age of the apostles, than had been before from the beginning of the world till that time. Thus God so soon begins gloriously to accomplish his promise to his Son, wherein he had promised, That he should see his seed, and that the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hand, if he would make his soul an offering for sin. And,

1. Here is to be observed the success which the gospel had among the Jews; for God first began with them. He being about to reject the main body of that people, first calls in his elect from among them. It was so in former great and dreadful judgments of God on that nation: the bulk of them were destroyed, and only a remnant saved or reformed. The bulk of the ten tribes was rejected, when they left the true wor

ship of God under Jeroboam, and afterwards more fully in Ahab's time; but yet there was a remnant of them reserved. Many left their possessions in these tribes, and settled in the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. And afterwards there were seven thousand in Ahab's time, who had not bowed the knee to Baal. From the captivity into Babylon, only a remnant of them ever returned to their own land. So now the greater part of the people were rejected entirely, but some few were saved. And therefore the Holy Ghost compares this reservation of a number that were converted by the preaching of the apostles, to those former remnants: Rom. ix. 27. "Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved."— See Isa. x. 22.

The glorious success of the gospel among the Jews after Christ's ascension, began by the pouring out of the Spirit upon the day of Pentecost. (Acts ii.) So wonderful was this effusion, and so remarkable and swift the effect of it, that we read of three thousand who were converted to the Christian faith in one day, Acts ii. 41; and probably the greater part of these were savingly converted. And after this, we read of God's adding to the church daily such as should be saved, (ver. 47.) Soon after, we read, that the number of them were about five thousand. Thus were not only a multitude converted, but the church was then eminent in piety, as appears by Acts ii. 46, 47. iv. 32.

Thus the Christian church was first formed from the nation of Israel; and therefore, when the Gentiles were called, they were added to the Christian church of Israel, as the proselytes of old were to the Mosaic church of Israel. They were only grafted on the stock of Abraham, and were not a distinct tree; for they were all still the seed of Abraham and Israel; as Ruth the Moabitess, and Uriah the Hittite, and other proselytes of old, were the same people, and ranked as the seed of Israel.

The Christian church began at Jerusalem, and from thence was propagated to all nations; so that this church of Jerusalem was the mother of all other churches in the world; agreeable to the prophecy, Isa. ii. 3, 4. “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem: and he shall judge among the nations, and rebuke many people." So that the whole church of God is still his spiritual Jerusalem.

After this, we read of many thousands of Jews in Jerusalem, that believed, Acts xxi. 20. And we read of multitudes of Jews who were converted in other cities of Judea, and in other parts of the world. For it was the manner of the apostles to go first into the synagogues of the Jews, and

« EdellinenJatka »