« ElőzőTovább »
resurrection-morning, when the Sun of righteousness shall appear in our heavens, shining in all bis brightness and glory, he will come forth as a bridegroom ; he shall come in the glory of his Father, with all his holy angels. And at that glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, shall the whole elect church, complete as to every individual member, and each member with the whole man, both body and soul, and both in perfect glory, ascend up to meet the Lord in the air, to be thenceforth for ever with the Lord. That will be indeed a joyful meeting of this glorious bridegroom and bride. Then the bridegroom will appear in all his glory without any veil : and then the saints shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and at the right hand of their Redeemer ; and then the church will appear as the bride, the Lamb's wife. It is the state of the church after the resurrection, that is spoken of Rev. xxi. 2. “ And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” And verse 9. "Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife." Then will come the time, when Christ will sweetly invite his spouse to enter in with him into the palace of his glory, which he had been preparing for her from the foundation of the world, and shall, as it were, take her by the hand, and lead her in with him : and this glorious bridegroom and bride shall, with all their shining ornaments, ascend up together into the heaven of heavens ; the whole multitude of glorious angels waiting upon them: and this son and daughter of God shall, in their
united glory and joy, present themselves together before the Father, when Christ
“ Here am I, and the children which thou hast given me;" And they both shall in that relation and union, together receive the Father's blessing; and shall thenceforward rejoice together, in consummate, uninterrupted, immutable, and everlasting glory, in the love and embraces of each other, and joint enjoyment of the love of the Father.
2. That forementioned union of faithful ministers with the people of Christ, is in order to this blessedness.
(1.) It is only with reference to Christ as the true bridegroom of his church, that there is any union between a faithful minister and a Christian people, that is like that of a bridegroom and bride.
As I observed before, a faithful minister espouses a Christian people, not in his own name, but as Christ's ambassador ; he espouses them, that therein they may be espoused to Christ. He loves her with a tender conjugal affection, as she is the spouse of Christ, and as he, as the minister of Christ, has his heart under the influence of the spirit of Christ; as Abraham's faithful servant, that was sent to fetch a wife for his master's son, was captivated with Rebekah's beauty and virtue ; but not
with reference to an union with himself, but with his master Isaac. It was for his sake he loved her, and it was for him that he desired her. He set his heart upon her, that she might be Isaac's wife; and it was for this that he greatly rejoiced over her, for this he wooed her, and for this he obtained her, and she was for a season, in a sense united to him; but it was as a fellow-traveller, that by him she might be brought to Isaac in the land of Canaan. For this he adorned her with ornaments of gold; it was to prepare her for Isaac's embraces. All that tender care which a faithful minister takes of his people as a kind of spiritual husband to provide for them, to lead, and feed, and comfort them—is not as to bis own bride, but his master's.
And on the other hand, the people receive him, unite themselves to him in covenant, honour bim, subject themselves to him, and obey him, only for Christ's sake, and as one that represents him, and acts in his name towards them. All this love, and honour, and submission, is ultimately referred to Christ. Thus the apostle says, Gal. iv. 14, “ Ye received me as an angel, or messenger of God, even as Christ Jesus." And the children that are brought forth in consequence of the union of the pastor and people, are not properly the minister's children, but the children of Christ ; they are not born of man, but of God.
(2.) The things that appertain to that forementioned union of a faithful minister and Christian people, are the principal appointed means of bringing the church to that blessedness that has been spoken of. Abraham's servant, and the part he acted as Isaac's agent towards Rebekah, were the principal means of his being brought to enjoy the benefits of her conjugal relation to Isaac. Ministers are sent to woo the souls of men for Christ, 2 Cor. v. 20. " We are then ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by 11s: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” We read in Matt. xxii. of a certain king, that made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to invite and bring in the guests : these servants are ministers. The labours of faithful ministers are the principal means God is wont to make use of for the conversion of the children of the church, and so of their espousals unto Christ. I have espoused you to one husband, says the apostle, 2 Cor. xi. 2. The preaching of the gospel by faithful ministers, is the principal means that God uses for exhibiting Christ, his love and benefits, to his elect people, and the chief means of their being sanctified, and so fitted to enjoy their spiritual bridegroom. Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, as by the washing of water by the word, (i. e. by the preaching of the gospel,) and so might present it to himself, a glorious church. The labours of faithful ministers are ordinarily the principal means of the joy of the saints in Christ Jesus, in their fellowship with their spiritual bridegroom
in this world ; 2 Cor. i. 24. “We are helpers of your joy." They are God's instruments for bringing up the church, as it were, from her childhood, till she is fit for her marriage with the Lord of glory; as Mordecai brought up Hadassah, or Esther, whereby she was fitted to be queen in Ahasuerus's court. God purifies the church under their hand, as Esther (to fit her for her marriage with the king) was committed to the custody of Hegai, the keeper of the women, to be purified six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours. They are made the instruments of clothing the church in her weddinggarments, that fine linen, clean and white, and adorning her for her husband : as Abraham's servant adorned Rebekah with golden ear-rings and bracelets. Faithful ministers are made the instruments of leading the people of God in the way to heaven, conducting them to the glorious presence of the bridegroom, to the consummate joys of her marriage with the Lamb b; as Abraham's servant conducted Rebekah from Padan-aram to Canaan, and presented her to Isaac, and delivered her into his embraces. For it is the office of. ministers, not only to espouse the church to her husband, but to present her a chaste virgin to Cbrist.
I would now conclude this discourse with some exhortations, agreeable to what has been said. And,
1. The exhortation may be to all that are called to the work of the gospel ministry.—Let us who are honoured by the glorious bridegroom of the church, to be employed as his ministers, to so high a purpose as has been represented, be engaged and induced by what has been observed, to faithfulness in our great work; that we may be, and act towards Christ's
; people that are committed to our care, as those that are united to them in holy espousals, for Christ's sake, and in order to their being brought to the unspeakable blessedness of that more glorious union with the Lamb of God, in wbich he shall rejoice over them, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride. Let us see to it that our hearts are united to them, as a young man to a virgin that he marries, in the most ardent and tender affection; and that our regard to them be pure and uncorrupt, that it may be a regard to them, and not to what they have, or any worldly advantages we hope to gain of them. And let us behave ourselves as those that are devoted to their good : being willing to spend and be spent for them; joyfully undertaking and enduring the labour and self-denial that is requisite in order to a thorough fulfilling the ministry that we have received. Let us continually and earnestly endeavour to promote the prosperity and salvation of the souls committed to our care, looking on their calamities and their prosperity as our own; feeling their spiritual wounds and griefs, and refreshed with their consolations; and
spending our whole lives in diligent care and endeavour to provide for, nourish, and instruct our people, as the intended spouse of Christ, yet in her minority, that we may furm her mind and behaviour, and bring her up for him, and that we may cleanse her, as with the washing of water by the word, and purify her as with sweet odours, and clothed in such raiment as may become Christ's bride. Let us aim that when the appointed wedding-day comes, we may have done our work as Christ's messengers; and may then be ready to present Christ's spouse to him, a chaste virgin, properly educated and formed, and suitably adorned for her marriage with the Lamb; that he may then present her to himself, a glorious church; not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, and may receive her into his eternal embraces, in perfect purity, beauty, and glory.
Here I would mention three or four things tending to excite us to this fidelity.
1. We ought to consider how much Christ has done to obtain that joy, wherein he rejoices over his church, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride.
The creation of the world seems to have been especially for this end, that the eternal Son of God might obtain a spouse towards whom he might fully exercise the infinite benevolence of his nature, and to whom he might, as it were, open and pour forth all that immense fountain of condescension, love, and grace, that was in his heart, and that in this way God might be glorified. Doubtless the work of creation is subordinate to the work of redemption : the creation of the new heavens and new earth, is represented as so much more excellent than the old, that, in comparison, it is not worthy to be mentioned, or come into mind.
Christ has done greater things than to create the world, in order to obtain his bride and and the joy of his espousals with her. For he became man for this end ; which was a greater thing than his creating the world. For the creator to make the creature was a great thing ; but for him to become a creature was a greater thing. And he did a much greater thing still to obtain this joy; in that for this he laid down his life, and suffered even the death of the cross ; for this he poured out his soul unto death; and he that is the Lord of the universe, God over all, blessed for evermore, offered up himself a sacrifice, in both body and soul, in the flames of divine wrath. Christ obtains his elect spouse by conquest; for she was a captive in the bands of dreadful enemies; and her Redeemer came into the world to conquer these enemies, and rescue her out of their bands, that she might be his bride. And he came and encountered these enemies in the greatest battle that ever was beheld by men or angels : He fought with principalities and powers; he fought alone with the powers of darkness, and all the armies of hell ; yea, he conflicted with the infinitely more dreadful wrath of God, and overcame in this great battle ; and thus he obtained his spouse. Let us consider at how great a price Christ purchased this spouse. He did not redeem her with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with his own precious blood; yea, he gave himself for her. When he offered up himself to God in those extreme labours and sufferings, this was the joy that was set before him, that made him cheerfully to endure the cross, and despise the pain and shame in comparison of this joy; even that rejoicing over his church, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride that the Father had promised him, and that he expected when he should present her to himself in perfect beauty and blessedness.
The prospect of this was what supported him in the midst of the disinal prospect of his sufferings, at which his soul was troubled ; John xii. 27. “Now is my soul troubled : and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: But for this cause come I unto this hour." These words show the conflict and distress of Christ's holy soul in the view of his approaching sufferings. But in the midst of his trouble, he was refreshed with the joyful prospect of the success of those sufferings in bringing home his elect church to himself, signified by a voice from heaven, and promised by the Father : on which he says, in the language of triumph, ver. 31, 32, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me."
And ministers of the gospel are appointed to be the instruments of bringing this to pass; the instruments of bringing home his elect spouse to him, and her becoming his bride; and the instruments of her sanctifying and cleansing by the word, that she might be meet to be presented to him on the future glorious wedding-day. How great a motive then is here to induce us who are called to be these instruments, to be faithful in our work, and most willingly labour and suffer, that Christ may see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied ? Shall Christ do such great things, and go through such great labours and sufferings to obtain this joy, and then honour us sinful worms, so as to employ us as his ministers and instruments to bring this joy to pass; and shall we be loth to labour, and backward to deny ourselves for this end?
2. Let us consider how much the manner in which Christ employs us in this great business has to engage us to a faithful performance of it. We are sent forth as his servants; but it is as highly dignified servants, as stewards of his household, as Abraham's servant; and as his ambassadors, to stand in his stead, and in his name, and represent his person in so great an affair as that of his espousals with the eternally beloved of his soul. Christ employs us not as mere servants, but as friends of the Vol. VI.