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he sware unto their fathers:* the substance of which was, that the true religion should prosper among them, and be communicated by them to all other nations. The ungodly part of the Jewish nation viewed things, it is true, in a different light: they valued themselves as the favourites of heaven, and looked down upon other nations with contemptuous dislike. But it was otherwise with the godly: they entered into the spirit of the promise made to their fathers. Hence they prayed that God would be merciful to them, and bless them, and cause his face to shine upon them; to the end THAT HIS WAY MIGHT BE KNOWN UPON EARTH, AND HIS SAVING HEALTH AMONG ALL NATIONS.t
The same spirit was manifested by the apostles and primitive Christians. They perceived that all that rich measure of gifts and graces by which they were distinguished, was given them with the design of their communicating it to others; and this was their constant aim. Paul felt himself a debtor both to Jews and Greeks, and spent his life in diffusing the blessings of the gospel, though in return he was continually treated as an evil doer; and the same might be said of the other apostles.
Nor is this social principle confined to the present life. According to scripture representations, the happiness of saints in glory will be conferred on them, not that it might stop there, but be communicated to the whole moral system. The redemption of the church has already added to the blessedness of other holy intelligences. It has furnished a new medium by which the glory of the divine perfections is beheld and admired. To explore the wisdom of God in his works is the constant employment of holy angels, and that in which consists a large proportion of their felicity. Prior to the accomplishment of the work of redemption they contemplated the divine character through the medium of creation and providence; but Now unto principalities and powers, in heavenly places, is known, BY THE CHURCH, the manifold wisdom of God.‡ And so much does this last display of divine glory exceed all that have gone before it, that those who have once obtained a view of it through this medium, will certainly prefer it to every other :
*Deut. ix. 5. vii. 7, 8. + Psa. lxvii.
Ephes. iii. 10.
Which things the angels desire to look into.* They do not, however, become indifferent to any of the divine operations: creation and providence continue to attract their attention, and are abundantly more interesting: they now study them according to the order in which they exist in the divine mind, that is, in subserviency to redemption.†
But that which is already accomplished is but small in comparison of what is in reserve. At the final judgment, when all the faithful will be collected together, they will become a medium through which the Lord Jesus will be glorified and admired by the whole creation: He shall come to be glorified IN his saints ; and to be admired IN all them that believe-in that day. It is a truth that the saints of God will themselves glorify and admire their great deliverer, but not the truth of this passage; the design of which is to represent them as a medium through which he shall be glorified by all the friends of God in the universe. The great physician will appear with his recovered millions; every one of whom will afford evidence of his disinterested love, and efficacious blood, to the whole admiring creation.
Much the same ideas are conveyed to us by those representations in which the whole creation are either called upon to rejoice on account of our redemption, or described as actually rejoicing and praising the Redeemer. Thus David, having spoken of God's mercy which was from everlasting to everlasting towards the children of men, addresses ALL HIS WORKS, IN ALL PLACES OF HIS DOMINION, to bless his name.§ John also informs us saying, I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing and honour, and giory, and power,
* 1 Pet. i. 12. + Col. i. 16, by him, and for him.
Psa. ciii. 17–22.
2 Thes. i. 10.
be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.*
The phraseology of these passages is such, that no one can reasonably doubt whether the writers intended to express the whole upright intelligent creation, be it of what extent it may : and if it be of that extent which philosophy supposes, the greater must be the influence and importance of the work of redemption.
5. The scriptures give us to expect that the earth itself, as well as its redeemed inhabitants, shall at a future period be purified, and reunited to the holy empire of God.-We are taught to pray, and consequently to hope, that when the kingdom of God shall universally prevail, his will shall be done on earth as it is now in heaven:† but if so, earth itself must become, as it were, a part of heaven.
That we may form a clear and comprehensive view of our Lord's words, and of this part of the subject, be it observed, that the scriptures sometimes distinguish between the kingdom of God, and that of Christ. Though the object of both be the triumph of truth and righteousness, yet the mode of administration is different. The one is natural, the other delegated: the latter is in subserviency to the former, and shall be finally succeeded by it. Christ is represented as acting in our world by delegation: as if a king had commissioned his son to go and reduce a certain rebellious province, and restore it to his dominion. The period allotted for this work extends from the time of the revelation of the promised seed to the day of judgment. The operations are progressive. If it had seemed good in his sight, he could have overturned the power of Satan in a short period; but his wisdom saw fit to accomplish it by degrees. Like the commander of an invading army, he first takes possession of one post, then of another, then of a third, and so on, till by and by the whole country falls into his hands. And as the progress of a conqueror would be more rapid after a few of the strongest fortresses had surrendered, inasmuch as things would then approach fast to a crisis, to a breaking up, as it were, of the powers of the enemy,) so it has been
* Rev. v. 11-13.
+ Matt. vi. 10.
with the kingdom of Christ, and such will be its progress before the end of time. In the early ages of the world but little was done. At one time true religion appears to have existed only in a few families. Afterwards it assumed a national appearance. After this it was addressed to all nations. And before the close of time all nations shall be subjected to the obedience of Christ. This shall be the breaking up of Satan's empire. Now as on the conquest of a rebellious province, the delegated authority of the conqueror would cease, and the natural government of the empire resume its original form; so Christ is represented as delivering up the kingdom to his Father, that God may be all in all.* This is the ultimatum of the Messiah's kingdom; and this appears to be the ultimate object for which he taught his disciples to pray: but as the final end involves the preceding gradations which lead on to its accomplishment, in directing them to pray for the coming of God's kingdom, he directeth them to pray for the present prevalence of his own.
As on the conquest of a rebellious province some would be par doned, and others punished; as every vestige of rebellion would be effaced, and law, peace, and order, flow in their ancient channels; such a period might with propriety be termed a restitution of all things. Such will be the event of the last judgment, which is described as the concluding exercise of the delegated authority of Christ.
As on the conquest of a rebellious province, and the restitution of peace and order, that province, instead of being any longer separate from the rest of the empire, would become a component parof it, and the king's will would be done in it as it had been done without interruption in the loyal part of his territories; such is the representation given with respect to our world, and the holy parts of God's dominions. A period will arrive when the will of God shall be done on earth as it is now done in heaven. This, however, will never be the case while any vestige of moral evil remains. It must be after the general conflagration; which, though it will destroy every kind of evil, root and branch, that now prevails upon the face of the earth, and will terminate the generations of Adam, who have possessed it; yet will not so destroy the
* 1 Cor. xv. 24. 28.
† Aets iii. 10.
earth itself but that it shall survive its fiery trial, and, as I apprebend, become the everlasting abode of righteousness; a part of the holy empire of God. This was to be the mark on which the disciples were to keep their eye in all their prayers: but as in desiring a perfect conformity to Christ in their own souls, they would necessarily desire the present progress of purity in the use of all the appointed means, so in praying that God's will might be perfectly done on earth, even as it is done in heaven, they would pray for the progressive prevalence of righteousness in the world, as that by which it should be accomplished.
It is not improbable that the earth, thus purified, may ever continue the resort, if not the frequent abode of those who are redeemed from it. Places where some of the most interesting events have been transacted, when visited at some distance of time, often become, in the present state of things, a considerable source of delight. Such was Bethel to Jacob, and Tabor, no doubt, to the three disciples; and if any remains of our present sensations should attend us in a state of immortality, a review of the scenes of our Lord's birth, life, agony, and crucifixion, as well as of many other events, may furnish a source of everlasting enjoyment.
However this may be, the scriptures give us to understand, that though the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up; yet, according to promise, we are to look for new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.* By the new heavens here is plainly to be understood so much of the element as shall have been affected by the general conflagration; and by the new earth, the earth after it is purified by it.
Much to the same purpose is the account given towards the close of the Revelation of John. After a description of the general judgment, it follows, And I saw a new heaven and a new earth : for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.—And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. When the earth shall have become a part of God's holy empire, heaven
*2 Pet. iii. 12, 13.