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suffered persecution for the gospel: "It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us: when the Lord shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power: when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe :' that is, when he shall come to be glorified, in the eye of the whole world, in the punishments inflicted on the final and irreconcileable enemies of God and religion, and in the glorious and happy circumstances of those who have sincerely embraced the truth, and have been under the power and influence of it.
We may improve these words, by observing and enlarging somewhat upon these three propositions.
I. Christ will come again.
II. When he comes, he will be glorified in the happy and advantageous circumstances of his people.
III. He will be admired by all who have believed in him, and continued faithful to the end.
Prop. I. Christ will come again. This is no less certain, than that he once dwelt on this earth. The time is still a secret to us, and perhaps to all orders of intelligent creatures: but the thing itself is undoubted. He will come again at the time appointed of the Father, as St. Peter observes in one of his first sermons after the descent of the spirit: "whom the heavens must receive, till the time of the restitution of all things," Acts iii. 21. At the very instant of his ascension, his disciples were expressly assured of it by two angels: "This same Jesus," say they, "which is taken up from you into heaven, shall soon come in like manner, as ye have seen him go into heaven," Acts i. 11. Our Lord himself often spoke of it to his disciples, and with the fullest assurance of the certainty of the event. "I go to prepare a place for you: and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also," John xiv. 2, 3. But he never acquaints them with the time: and because, for wise reasons, that is kept secret, he frequently exhorts them to watchfulness and circumspection. "Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day, nor the hour, when the Son of man cometh.'
But though the time is unknown, the second coming of their Lord is no less the object of the faith of God's people now, than his first coming was of the saints under former dispensations: and the fulfilment of ancient predictions, in his first coming, confirms the hope of his appearing again. Nor is the great design of his coming into this world as yet accomplished. He will therefore certainly come once more, to complete the work he has begun.
We also know some of the circumstances of his expected coming, which are very different from those of the first. Then he was in the form of a servant. Hereafter he will appear in the character of the universal Lord and Judge: "he will be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire: he will come in the glory of the Father, and all the holy angels with him: he will sit on the throne of his glory, and before him will be gathered all nations."
Prop. II. When Christ comes again, he will be glorified in the happy and advantageous circumstances of his people. Here we may observe two things: first, what there will be, at that time, in their circumstances, which will reflect honour upon him. Secondly, what perfections in him will then be glorified and appear illustrious.
1. First, what there will be, at that time, in the circumstances of his people, that will reflect honour and lustre upon him. There will be such things as these; the perfection of their holiness, their external glory, and their great number.
1.) One thing in Christ's people, which will then reflect honour upon him, is the perfection of their holiness. They, who then appear among his people, and are owned by him, are such as had believed in him, and served him faithfully in this world. The virtue of these, which here had some alloys and imperfections, will then be completed. "The church, which he loved, and for which he gave himself, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, will" then "be presented to him a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, being holy and without blemish," Eph. v. 25-27.
2.) Another thing in his people that will reflect honour upon him is their external glory, ot the lustre of their persons; their bodies being then raised up immortal, and no more liable to death, or diseases. Soul and body are reunited, free from all the infirmities of sinful and mortal flesh. They have enlarged capacities, fitted for the noblest services; celestial minds, and celestial bodies; bodies no longer clogs to the soul in its divine employments, but made fit for a partnership with it in uninterrupted, endless praise and happiness. The representations, which the scripture gives us of this glory of the saints, are to this purpose: "So also is the resurrection of the dead: it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body-The first man is of the earth earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven. And as we have born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly," 1 Cor. xv. 42-49. "We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body," Philip. iii. 21. So St. Paul. And, says another apostle: "It does not yet appear, what we shall be: but this we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,” 1 John iii. 2.
3.) In the day of his second coming, Christ will be glorified in the number and great multitude of his saints. He himself once spoke of his disciples and people, as a "little flock, Luke xii. 32. It was so then indeed. Few there were that believed in him; fewer still, who had the courage to own him publicly, and before the world. Most men were then ignorant of him, or offended at him: and oftentimes his professed visible people have made but a small and inconsiderable appearance, in comparison of the rest of the world: but in that day, the number of his redeemed ones will appear to be a great multitude; when all who have held the faith of Jesus, or died in the hope and expectation of him, in any age, shall be gathered together from all the ends of the earth, and shall come from the east and the west to meet their triumphant Lord. Says St. John in the Revelation: "After this I beheld, and lo a great multitude, which no man could number, out of all nations and kindreds, and people and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. And they cried with a loud voice, saying: salvation unto our God, which sitteth on the throne, and unto the lamb," Rev. vii. 9, 10.
If Christ's people and followers should not then appear to be so numerous, as those who have not known him, or not obeyed him; yet they may, as they certainly will, be a great number, exceeding what the contracted charity, or the melancholy apprehensions of some now admit of and suppose. There may be many among his saints, not only out of all nations and people, but also out of all sects and parties; some of which were far from being very conspicuous or renowned on this earth.
There will be many of all ranks, of different gifts and attainments: some, of great learning, and the most exalted capacity; who preferred the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucified, above all other science, as best suited to secure the practice of virtue, and advance it to the greatest perfection; and to support the mind under the afflictions of this life. Others there will be, of meaner capacities, unable by the exercise of their own reason, to trace out the principles and obligations of religion and virtue, or to comprehend the abstruse speculations, and profound reasonings of the philosopher; who from the doctrine, miraculous works, great example, conspicuous and well-attested death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, have learned the nature and obligation of true religion, as consisting in the love of God and our neighbour, and the certainty of future recompences; and have been engaged thereby to perfect holiness in the fear of God. Some there will be in this number, who had gone far from God, and been greatly entangled in the snares of an evil world, and were in the utmost danger of everlasting perdition; who having been pierced with a sense of sin, and drawn by the gracious invitations of the gospel, became sincere penitents, and eminent saints. Others, who having been educated in the principles of the Christian doctrine, and having been from the beginning under the impressions of them, continued to walk with Christ in white, and kept their garments clean, unspotted from the world. There will be here a glorious appearance of such as bought the truth, and would not sell it; who took the kingdom of heaven by violence, and chose the narrow path of virtue that leads to the sight of God and the heavenly life: when they, who should have animated and encouraged them by their counsel and example, laid obstacles in their way, and would have persuaded them
rather to seek the ease, riches, honours and preferments of this present world. Some there will be of large minds, who studied the principles of reason and revelation, and were well acquainted with the mind of Christ; who here earnestly recommended general benevolence, promoted peace and friendship among men, and happily prevented contentions and divisions. These will have distinguished honour in that day: and some others, possibly, shall not miss of the divine favour, who from false apprehensions, and a mistaken zeal, had been here too apt to reject some, whom they should have received as brethren in Christ, and heirs of the heavenly inheritance. There will be some, who in this state of trial had done honour to religion, by a cheerful, as well as steady obedience. They had a comfortable persuasion of the divine favour and acceptance, and they rejoiced in hope of the glory of God. They could say: "The life, which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me," Gal. ii. 20. They will triumph and exult, when Christ, the judge of all, shall confirm the testimony they had in their minds, that they were the children of God. Others there will be, men of true simplicity and integrity, but dejected and low-spirited. They hoped, but could never fully clear up to their satisfaction, that they loved God; nor arrive at a settled persuasion, that they were loved of him; who, when the "books shall be opened," will know, to their unspeakable joy, that "their names" also "were written in the book of life," Rev. xx. 12. There will be a great number, who here on earth were despised of men, and lived in mean condition; who will be owned by Christ for his people, as having been resigned, contented, thankful in the circumstances allotted them by Divine Providence. There will be many, who had honoured the Lord with their substance, who "clothed the naked, fed the hungry, visited the sick,” and spoke comfortably to those who were cast down. There will be many who had gone through great tribulation, who laboured and did not faint; a noble and numerous company of martyrs and confessors, who took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, or laid down their lives in testimony to the truth.
Will not this multitude of such persons reflect honour upon him, by whom they were redeemed; through whose means they were carried safe through the temptations of this world, and were enabled to persevere to the end, notwithstanding the difficulties they met with? If it be true, as it certainly is, that "they who are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever," Dan. xii. 3. how glorious is Jesus, the source of this wisdom, the spring of this zeal for truth and virtue !
2. Secondly, we are to consider, what perfections in Christ will then be glorified, and appear illustrious and it is reasonable to suppose, that his wisdom, his power, and his faithfulness will then be very conspicuous.
1.) His wisdom. The preaching of the cross has appeared foolishness to many in this world: but then it will be manifest, beyond the possibility of farther doubt and question, that "the foolishness of God," 1 Cor. i. 25. that divine dispensation, which many had despised, was wiser than all the wisdom of men. Some indeed, yea not a few, do now perceive and acknowledge it to be a well-laid design, admirably suited to the weakness and degeneracy of the human nature and they are ready to say with the apostle: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! and that God hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence." But at that time, the contrivance of this dispensation will appear still more wonderful. It will be manifest, particularly in the great number of the saints then collected, and brought together in one, from the several parts of the world; to whom "Christ has been made of God, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption," 1 Cor. i. 30.
It is indeed a vast and delightful scene of contemplation, which will then lie open to the saints; to observe the original design, several steps, continued progress, and final completion of the recovery and salvation of so many frail and sinful men, by Jesus Christ; and to observe the extent of his government of the church, and the world in general, in the several parts and ages of it, from the time of his exaltation to the right hand of the throne of God, to that and glorious day, when all mankind are brought before his tribunal.
2.) At that time the power of Christ will be glorified. It will appear great and wonderful in the resurrection of the saints, just performed by his word. This is what our Lord spoke of, as so marvellous, in answer to some cavils of the Jews: "For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doth: and he will shew him greater things than these, that ye may marvel: for as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son
quickeneth whom he will-Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming, in which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation," John v. 20-29.
3.) Another perfection, to be glorified at that time, is the truth or faithfulness of Christ. This is the day for the full accomplishment of all his promises, upon which his people have depended, and by which they have been animated in the whole of their course. Here he delivered rules of life, and made gracious promises to such as obeyed them. He encouraged men to forsake all earthly goods for his sake and the gospel's, assuring them of abundant recompense hereafter. In his conference with Nicodemus he useth these expressions: Verily I say unto thee: we speak what we do know, and testify that we have seen." John iii. 11. In his preaching he publicly declared with the greatest solemnity: "This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day: and this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day," John vi. 39, 40. Once more, he says to his disciples: "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you," ch. xiv. 2. Upon the ground of a clear conviction of his divine attthority and character, which he claimed; and a persuasion of the truth of all his declarations and promises, his people have acted as they have done. They have given themselves up to him, and obeyed him. They have been induced to seek principally such things as are now distant and unseen; and not to prefer, but oftentimes to forego the pleasures, possessions and honours of this present world, and every thing desirable therein, in hope of being raised up by him to immortal life and everlasting happiness. So they have acted: so they have believed, and trusted in him: and now his truth is manifest in the event. Those things, which were once the objects of desire and hope, are possessed and enjoyed. His faithfulness was believed before, and there was good evidence of the truth of all he said; and they who depended upon it, acted wisely and reasonably but now it is even seen. Not one jot or tittle of his word has fallen to the ground, but all is fulfilled. Not one of those little ones whom men despised, has perished; whom he had assured, that it was the good pleasure of the Father to give them a kingdom. Not one of those, whom the Father had given him, is wanting, but all his sheep are placed at his right
His truth and faithfulness may be farther illustrated, at that time, by the peculiar degrees. of honour and glory conferred upon those, whose virtue has been eminent, and tried by great difficulties and sufferings here. Many indeed, and great are the encouragements, which he gave in the course of his ministry to those who should be eminent, steadfast and constant in virtue; and future rewards will certainly be answerable to those encouraging declarations, and the hopes he has raised by them. "Blessed are ye," says he, "when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil of you, falsely, for my sake: rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven," Matt. v. 11, 12. When the disciples desired to know, who should be "greatest in the kingdom of heaven," ch. xviii. 1, 4. he did not deny that there would be distinctions therein: but intimates, that he who should be most humble, and for the sake of truth and the good of mankind most abase himself, would in the end be most exalted, and be "greatest in the kingdom of heaven." When the two disciples petitioned,' "to sit, the one on the right hand, and the other on the left, in his kingdom," he did not grant their request; assuring them it was not a thing to be determined by him, upon the ground of any personal regards and considerations. Nevertheless he adds: "It shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father," Matt. xx. 23. and he insinuates to them, that one way of being nearest to him in his glory, is to "drink of his cup, and be baptised with the baptism, with which he was to be baptised;" that is, to suffer in testimony to truth, if called thereto. In figurative expressions he pronounces a special blessing upon men of uniform virtue and obedience. "Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when he cometh shall find watching. Verily, I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them," Luke xii. 37. When Thomas, upon the ground of an overbearing evidence, admitted the truth of his resurrection, our Lord graciously accepted the profession of faith which he made: but at the same time, he breaks forth into a superior commendation of
such as should be better disposed to truth. "Jesus saith unto him: Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they which have not seen, and yet have believed," John xx. 29.
Agreeable hereto are many declarations of the apostles. For," says St. Paul, “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." 2 Cor. iv. 17. And St. Peter: "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, may be found unto praise and honour and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ," 1 Pet. i. 7. that is, they who when tried by difficulties and sufferings in the cause of truth, are not thereby overcome, but still continue faithful, and are only more and more refined and sanctified, shall receive abundance of honour and praise at the appearance of Jesus Christ.
Hereby the Lord will be glorified; when the truth and equity of his judgment shall be manifest in rewards, proportioned to his declarations, and the great hopes he had raised in the minds of the sincere and upright. The cause of virtue is then completely vindicated by him. Every instance of right conduct is recompensed: and the most eminent virtue, which here on earth is sometimes exposed to the greatest difficulties, and the worst reproaches, receives an equal reward. This is glorious to the Judge of the world.
These are perfections of Christ, which are glorified by the perfect holiness, external glory, and great number of his people: for, as the apostle says, " Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice in it," 1 Cor. xii. 26. so also is Christ, the head, honoured and glorified in the honour of each saint, much more in the honour and glory of the whole church, which is his body. This is the day, when good men, of all ages and nations, of every rank and condition, of different capacities and attainments, who have lived under the several dispensations of reason and revelation, make up one visible and harmonious assembly. Nor is there any longer one member of the church suffering, or tempted: all have finished their course, and their warfare is accomplished. In the stile of the Revelation, "they are clothed in white robes, with palms in their hands," Rev. vii. 9. the ensigns of victory and triumph.
It is then a day glorious to Christ, and a day of unspeakable joy to his people. He must be honoured and revered by those also, to whom his appearance is not joyful: for all the unjust neglect and contempt of him and his people are for ever confuted and put to shame; and a full conviction is wrought in the minds of all, concerning the reasonableness of the gracious promises formerly made in favour of virtue, and the great rewards now conferred upon it.
It is, moreover, reasonable to suppose, that at this time, Christ will be very glorious in the esteem of the blessed angels, and all orders of intelligent beings: for the angels are said to be "ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them, who shall be heirs of salvation," Heb. i. 14. and they desired to look into those things," 1 Pet. 1. 12. that were done at the publication of the gospel. It may be therefore justly concluded, that they likewise partake in the joy and acclamations of this day; and that in their eyes, as well as in those of his people, Christ is glorified: especially since they are spoken of as present at this time, and coming as attendants on the Judge of the world. See Rev. v. 11-14.
Prop. III. When Christ comes again, he will be admired, particularly, by all them that believe. Three things will appear admirable at that time: Christ's personal glory, the greatness of his love in what he has done for his people, and his goodness in the kind reception he gives them, and the great reward he bestows upon them.
1. Christ's personal glory. He comes on the clouds, with an innumerable company of the heavenly inhabitants in his train and many awful appearances there will be to increase the grandeur and solemnity of that day. There will be also the glory of his own person, suited to his real dignity, and the great characters he sustains, of the Head of the church and Judge of the world. Once, when he was on earth, in the days of his humiliation, he was gloriously transformed in the view of three of his disciples: "His face did shine as the sun, and his, raiment became white as the light." The description given of that one transient glorification may help us to some imperfect idea of the present glory of the human nature of Christ in his state of exaltation; and of that in which he will appear, when he comes to judge the world. But though we cannot now distinctly conceive of it, we may be assured it will be such, as will