Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

enough to distinguish between God's rule and man's error. “Submit yourselves," saith the apostle, "to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake," &c. “ for so is the will of God, that, with well-doing, ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:” for this is certain, the ignorance of foolish men will not so much lay the blows upon your persons, as upon that truth and religion which you profess, when you needlessly withstand any such ordinances, as you might without sin obey.

The last thing observed in this verse was the multitudes of Christ's subjects, and the manner of their birth; " From the womb of the morning, thou hast the dew of thy youth:thy children are born in as great abundance unto thee, as the dew which falleth from the morning womb.

From whence we may note; First, That Christ, in the day of his power, in the morning of his church, had multitudes of children born unto him. This promise the Lord made to Abraham, and it is not to be limited to his children after the flesh, but to his children of promise, that his seed should be as the stars,' and as the dust d' for multitude. And the prophet applies that promise to Israel by promise, when those after the flesh should be dissipated and become no people, yet saith the prophet, “ The number of the children of Israel, shall be as the sand of the sea which cannot be measured nor numbered," " &c. meaning the Israel of God amongst the Gentiles. Thus the faithful are said to flock like doves unto their windows, and to swell into a sea of great waters, 'a hundred and four and forty thousand,' with an innumerable company more, all sealed and standing before the Lamb.

Now this was in die copiarum,' in the time when Christ first sent abroad his armies and the rod of his strength into the world. Before this, God suffered men to walk in their own ways "; yea, in his own lifetime, he forbid his disciples to enter into the cities of the Samaritans, or to the Gentiles. And he promised them that they should do greater works than he himself had done, “because he went unto his Father i:” for when he ascended up on high, he then led cap

c Gen. xxii. 17. xxviii. 14. f Isai. xi.9. & Rev. vii. 4,9. xiv. 12.

a Numb. xxiii. 10.

• Hos. i. 10. h Acts xiv. 16. xvii. 30.

i John

tivity captive; that ignorance and thraldom under which the world was held, he triumphed over, and gave gifts of his Spirit unto men of all sorts in abundance; visions to the young, dreams to the aged, and his gracious Spirit unto all. We never read of so many converted by Christ's personal preaching (which was indeed but the beginning of his preaching; for it is the Lord which speaketh from Heaven still) as by the ministry of his apostles; he thereby providing to magnify the excellency of his spiritual presence, against all the carnal superstitions of those men, who seek for an invisible corporal presence of Christ on the earth, charmed down out of Heaven, under the lying shapes of separated accidents; and who cannot be content with that all-sufficient remembrancer, which himself hath promised to his church', except they may have others, and those such as the holy Scriptures everywhere disgrace as teachers of lies and vanity, the crucifixes and images of their own erecting: therein infinitely derogating from that all-sufficient provision which the Lord, in his Word and sacraments (the only living and full images of Christ crucified k) hath proposed unto men as alone able to make them wise unto salvation; being opened and represented unto the consciences of men, not by human inventions, but by those holy ordinances and offices which himself hath appointed in his church, the preaching of his Word, and administration of his sacraments. And surely they who, by Moses and the prophets, by that ministry which Christ after his ascension did establish in his church, do not repent,-would be no whit the nearer, no more than Judas or the Pharisees were, if they should see or hear Christ in the flesh. Therefore it is observed, after Christ's ascension, that the Word of God "grew mightily, and prevailed ';" and that there were “men daily added unto the church m;” that “the savour of the gospel was made manifest in every place ";" that “the children of the desolate were more than of the married wife." Therefore the believers, after Christ's ascension, are called anos tās WIOTEUTáTW, “the multitude of them that believed P,” and

j John xiv. 26. 2 Cor. ii. 14.

k Gal. ij. I. I Acts xix. 20. Isa. liv. I. P Acts iv. 32.

m Acts iii. 47.

t

“multitudes of men and women were added to the Lord 9." Ten to one of that there was before ; “Ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you ";" that is, shall take the kingdom of Heaven by violence ', as Saul laid hold of the skirt of Samuel's mantle, that he might not go from him.

The reason hereof is to magnify the exaltation and spiritual presence and power of Christ in the church. While he was upon the earth, he confined his ordinary residence and personal preaching unto one people, because his bodily presence was narrow, and could not be communicated to the whole world. For he took our nature with those conditions and limitations, which belong thereunto. But his Spirit and power is over the whole church ; by them he walketh in the midst of the candlesticks. Christ's bodily presence and preaching the Jews withstood, and “crucified the Lord of glory.” But now, to show the greatness of his power by the gospel, he goes himself away, and leaves but a few poor and persecuted men behind him, assisted with the virtue of his Spirit, and by them wrought works, which all the world could not withstand. He could have published the gospel, as he did the law, by the ministry of angels; he could have anointed his apostles with regal oil, and made them not preachers only, but princes, and defenders of his faith in the world :—but he rather chose to have them to the end of the world, poor and despised men, whom the world (without any show of just reason, which can be by them alleged) should overlook, and account of as low and mean-conditioned men, that his Spirit might in their ministry be the more glorified. “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and weak things of the world to confound things that are mighty, and base things of the world and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things that are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence ";" but that his own Spirit might have all the honour. “Therefore I was with you in weakness,” saith the apostle, “and in fear, and in much trembling," &c. " that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God 2." - And again; “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us'; not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord ?." Thus we find, that when the church was most persecuted, it did then most grow; and in the worst times it brought forth the greatest fruit; to note, the power of Christ's kingdom, above all the attempts of men. A great door and effectual is opened unto me,” saith the apostle, "and there are many adversaries & ;" intimating, that the gospel of Christ had great success, when it was most resisted. All persecutors (as St. Cyprian observes) are like Herod; they take their times, and seek to slay Christ, and overthrow his kingdom in its infancy; and therefore, at that time, doth he most of all magnify the power and protection of his Spirit over the same. Never were there so many men converted, as in those infant times of the church, when the dragon stood before the woman ready to devour her child, as soon as it should be born. The great potentates of the world which did persecute the name of Christ, were themselves at last thereunto subjected, “ Non à repugnantibus, sed à morientibus Christianise," not by fighting but by dying Chris tians. As a tree shaken sheds the more fruit, and a perfume burnt diffuseth the sweeter savour; so persecuted Christianity doth the more flourish by the power of that holy Spirit, whose foolishness is wiser, and whose weakness is stronger than all the oppositions and contradictions of men.But if there be such multitudes belonging unto Christ's kingdom, is not universality d, and a visible pomp a true note to discern the church of Christ by ?-To this I answer, that a true characteristical note or difference, ought to be convertible with that of which it is made a note, and only suitable thereunto ; for that which is common unto many, can be no evident note of this or that particular. Now universality is common to antichristian, idolatrous, and malignant churches. The Arian heresy invaded the world, and by the imperial countenance spread itself into all churches. The whore e was to sit upon many waters, which were peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues ; the kings of the earth were to be made drunk with the wine of her fornications, and all nations to drink thereof. Therefore, touching these multitudes in the church, we are thus to state the point:Consider the church in itself, and so it is a very vast body; but yet consider it comparatively, with the other more prevailing and malignant part of the world, and so it is but a little flock; as many grains and measures of corn may lie hid under a greater heap of chaff. Secondly, The church now is many, comparatively with the old church of the Jews; “More are the children of the desolate, than of the married wifef;" but not comparatively with the adversaries of the church in general. We see of thirty parts of the world, nineteen are either idolatrous or Mahomedan 8; and the other eleven serving Christ in so different a manner, as if there were many Christs or many gospels, or many ways to the same end. Thirdly, Though Christ always have a numerous offspring, yet, in several ages, there is observable a different purity and conspicuousness, according to the different administrations and breathings of the Spirit upon his garden. In some ages, the doctrine is more uncorrupt, the profession and acceptation more universal than in others. In the apostles' time, there were many born unto Christ, by reason of the more abundant measure of Spirit which was shed abroad upon them". In the times of the primitive persecutions, there were many likewise born, because God would glorify the foundations of his church, and the power of his Spirit, above the pride of men'. In the first countenancing of it by imperial laws and favours, it was very general and conspicuous, because professed by the obedience and introduced by the power of those great emperors, whom the world followed. But after that long peace and great dignities had corrupted the minds of the chief in the church, and made them look more after the pomp, than the purity thereof,

r Zech. viii. 20, 23.

3 Matt. xi. 12.

tl Sam. xv. 27.

4 Aets y. 14. u ] Cor. i. 27, 28.

* 1 Cor. ii. 3, 4, 5. y 2 Cor. iv. 7. 2 Zech, iv. 6. • Cor. xvi. 9. b Infantiam Christi studiosè persequuntur, et antequàın formetur Christus in nobis, in ipso piæ conversationis initio ut extinguatur Spiritus, et suffocetur vita justitiæ, penitus elaborant. Cypr. Serni. de stella et Magis. Aug. ep. 42. 4 που εισιν οι σλήθει την εκκλησίαν ορίζοντες; Ναιιαη. Οrat. 25.

e Rev. xvii. 15. xviii. 3. f Isai. liv. ). 8 Brierwood, of Religion. h Tit. iji, 6. i Manifesta sc tum Dei virtus contra odia humana porrexit, cum tanto magis Christus prædicaretur, quanto magis prædicari inhiberetur. Hilar. contra Auxent.

« ElőzőTovább »