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I. The times of this period, for the most part,"are in the Old Testament called the latter days. We often, in the prophets of the Old Testament, read of things that should come to pass in the latter days, and sometimes in the last days, evidently referring to gospel times. They are called the latter days, and the last days: because this is the last period of the series of God's providences on earth, the last period of the great work of redemption; which is as it were the sum of God's works of providence; the last dispensation of the covenant of grace on earth.
II. The whole time of this period is sometimes in scripture called the end of the world, 1 Cor. x. 11. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. And the apostle, (Heb. ix. 26.) in this expression of the end of the world, means the whole of the gospel-day, from the birth of Christ to the day of judgment: But now once in the end of the world, hath he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of kimself. This space of time may well be called the end of the world; for this whole time is taken up in bringing things to their great end and issue. Before, things were in a kind of preparatory state ; but now they are in a finishing state. An end is now brought to the former carnal state of things, which by degrees vanishes, and a spiritual state begins to be established more and more. Particularly, an end is brought to the former state of the church, which may be called its worldly state, in which it was subject to carnal ordinances, and the rudiments of the world. Then an end is brought to the Jewish commonwealth, in the destruction of their city and country. After that, an end is brought to the old Heathen empire in Constantine's time. The next step is the finishing of Satan's visible kingdom in the world, upon the fall of Antichrist, and the calling of the Jews. And last will come the destruction of the outward frame of the world itself, at the conclusion of the day of judgment. Heaven and earth began to shake, in order to a dissolution, according to the prophecy of Haggai, before Christ came, that so only those things which cannot be shaken may remain, i. e. that those things which are to come to an end may terminate, and that only those things may remain which are to remain eternally.
In the first place, the carnal ordinances of the Jewish worship came to an end, in order to make way for the establishment of that spiritual worship, which is to endure all eternitý; John iv. 21. Jesus saith unto the woman, Believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Verse 23. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
This is one instance of the temporary world coming to an end, and the eternal world beginning. And then the outward temple and the city Jerusalem came to an end, to give place to the setting up of the spiritual temple and city, which are to last for ever. Another instance of removing those things which are ready to vanish away, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain, is the bringing to an end the old Heathen empire, to make way for the empire of Christ, which shall last to all eternity. After that, upon the fall of Antichrist, an end is put to Satan's visible kingdom on earth, to establish Christ's kingdom, wbich is an eternal kingdom; as the prophet Daniel says, chap. vii. 27. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting, kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him; which is another instance of the ending of the temporary world, and the beginning of the eternal one. And then, lastly, the very frame of this corruptible world shall come to an end, to make way for the church to dwell in another dwellingplace, which shall last to eternity.
Because the world is thus coming to an end by various steps and degrees, the apostle perhaps uses this expression, that (not the end but) the ends of the world are come on us; as though the world has several endings one after another.The gospel dispensation is a finishing state; it is all spent in finishing things off which before had been preparing, or abolishing things which before had stood. It is all spent as it were in summing things up, and bringing them to their issues, and their proper fulfilment. · Now all the old types are fulfilled, and the predictions of all the prophets from the beginning of the world shall be accomplished in this period.
III. That state of things which is attained in the events of this period is called a new heaven and a new earth: Isa. Ixv. 17, 18. For behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be you glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create : for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And chap. Ixvi. 22. For as the new heavens and the new earth which I make, shall remain before me; so shall your seed and your name remain. See also chap. li. 16. As the former state of things, or the old world, by one step after another, is through this period coming to an end; so the new state of things, the new world, which is a spiritual world, is beginning and setting up. In consequence of each of these finishings of the old state of things, there is the beginning of a new and eternal state. So that which accompanied the destruction of the literal Jerusalem, was an establishing of the spiritual. So with respect to the destruction of the old Heathen empire, and all
the other endings of the old state of things; till at length the very outward frame of the world itself shall come to an end; and the church shall dwell in heaven, which will be a new habitation. Then shall the utmost be accomplished that is meant by the new heavens and the new earth. (See Rev. xxi. 1.)
The end of God's creating the world, was to prepare a kingdom for his Son, (for he is appointed heir of the world,) which should remain to all eternity. So far as the kingdom of Christ is set up in the world, so far is the world brought to its end, and the eternal state of things set up--so far are all the "great changes and revolutions in the world brought to their everlasting issue, and all things come to their ultimate period so far are the waters of the long channel of divine providence, which has so many branches, and so many windings, emptied. into their proper ocean, which they have been seeking from the beginning of their course, and so are come to their rest. So far as Christ's kingdom is established in the world, so far are things wound up and settled in their everlasting state, and a period put to the course of things in this changeable world; so far are the first heavens and the first earth come to an end, and the new heavens and the new earth, the everlasting heavens and earth, established in their room. This leads me to observe,
IV. That the state of things which is attained by the events of this period, is what is so often called the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God. We very often read in the New Testament of the kingdom of heaven. John the Baptist preached, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand; and so did Christ and his disciples after him ; referring to something that the Jews in those days expected, and called by that name. They seem to have taken their expectation and the name chiefly from the prophecy of Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Dan. ii. 44. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom; together with chap. vii.
Now this kingdom of heaven is that evangelical state of things in the church, and in the world, wherein consists the success of Christ's redemption in this period. There had been often great kingdoms set up before; as the Babylonish, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman monarchies. But Christ came to set up the last, which is not an earthly kingdom, but an beavenly, John xviii. 36. My kingdom is not of this world. This is the kingdom of which Christ speaks, Lukexxii. 29. My
Father hath appointed to me a kingdom. This kingdom began soon after Christ's resurrection, and is accomplished in various steps from that time to the end of the world. Sometimes by the kingdom of heaven, is meant not only that spiritual state of the church which began soon after Christ's resurrection ; but
also that more perfect state which shall obtain after the downfal of Antichrist; and sometimes that glorious and blessed state to which the church shall be received at the day of judgment. So 1 Cor. xv. 50. This I say, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.-Under this head I would observe several things particularly, for the clearer understanding of what the scripture says concerning this period.
1. The setting up of the kingdom of Christ is chiefly accomplished by four successive great events, cach of which is in scripture called Christ's coming in his kingdom. The first is Christ's appearing in those wonderful dispevsations of providence in the apostles' days, in setting up his kingdom, and destroying its enemies, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem. This is called Christ's coming in his kingdom, Matt. xvi. 28. Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (And Matt. xxiv.) The second is that which was accomplished in Constantine's time, in the destruction of the Heathen Roman empire. This is represented as Christ's coming, and is compared to bis coming to judgment, (Rev. vi, at the latter end.) The third is that which is to be accomplished at the destruction of Antichrist. This also is represented as Christ's coming in his kingdom in the 7th chapter of Daniel, and in other places. The fourth and last is his coming to the last judgment, which is the cyent principally signified in scripture by Christ's coming in his kingdom.
2. Each of the three former of these is a lively image, or type, of the fourth and last, vis. Christ's coming to the final judgment, as the principal dispensations of providence before, were types of his first coming.--As Christ's last coming to judgment is accompanied with the resurrection of the dead, so is each of the three foregoing with a spiritual resurrection. That coming of Christ which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, was preceded by a glorious spiritual resurrection of souls in the calling of the Gentiles through the preaching of the gospel. Christ's coming in Constantine's time, was accompanied with a glorious spiritual resurrection of the greater part of the known world, in a restoration of it to a visible church state, from a state of Heathenism. Christ's coming at tbe destruction of Antichrist, will be attended with a spiritual resurrection of the church after it had been long as it were dead, in the times of Antichrist. This is called the first resur. rection in the 20th chapter of Revelation.
Again, as Christ in the last judgment will gloriously mani. fest himself coming in the glory of his Father, so in each of the three foregoing events Christ gloriously manifested himself in sending judgments upon bis enemies, and in showing favour to his church. As the last coming of Christ will be attended with a literal gathering together of the elect from the four winds of heaven, so were each of the preceding attended with a spiritual gathering in of the elect. As this gathering together of the elect will be effected by God's angels with a great sound of a trumpet; (Matt. xxiv. 31.) so were each of the preceding spiritual ingatherings effected by the trumpet of the gospel, sounded by the ministers of Christ. As there shall precede the last appearance of Christ, a time of great degeneracy and wickedness, so this bas been, or will be, the case with each of the other appearances. Brfore each of them is a time of a great opposition to the church; before the first, by the Jews : before the second, in Constantine's time, by the Heathen, before the third, by Antichrist ; and before the last, by Gog and Magog, as described in the Revelation.
By each of these comings of Christ, God works a glorious deliverance for his church. The first, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, was attended with bringing the church into the glorious state of the gospel. The second, which was in Constantine's time, was accompanied with an advancement of the church into a state of liberty from persecution, the countenance of civil authority, and her triumph over Heathen persecutors. The third, which shall be at the downfal of Antichrist, will be accompanied with an advancement of the church into that state of the glorious prevalence and truth, liberty, peace, and joy, which we so often read of in the prophetical parts of scripture. The last will be attended with the advancement of the church to consummate glory in heaven.
Each of these comings of Christ is accompanied with a terrible destruction of the wicked, and the enemies of the church : the first, with the destruction of the persecuting Jews, which was amazingly terrible; the second, with dreadful judgments on the Heathen persecutors of the church; the third, with the awful destruction of Antichrist, the most cruel and bitter enemy that ever the church had; the fourth, with divine wrath and vengeance on all the ungodly:-Further, there is in each of these comings of Christ an ending of the old, and a beginning of new beavens and a new earth ; or an end of a temporal state of things, and a beginning of an eternal state.
3. I would obscrve, that each of those four great dispensations which are represented as Christ's coming in his kingdom, are but so many steps and degrees of the accomplishment of that one event prophesied of, Dan..vii. 13, 14. And I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man, came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the ancient of days, and they broughi him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, pations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an