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than one alone could be." But in this, caution is necessary, that we give Christ his prerogative, and ascribe not too much to men, to expect that from them which is not in them; survivors are too prone to this idolatry, as popery testifies: but in heaven our affections will be regular, God will have his due, and saints theirs; we shall behold God in his saints. All the glory will redound to God, for what God's children have been and then are; "when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe in that day."+ O what a happy, honourable, triumphant assembly will that be! The contemplation I have had on this day and state, hath extorted from me these meditations, which have been very delightful to me in transcribing; and I shall pray that they may be profitable to the reader, and that we may land safe in that blessed haven, where so many of our pious friends and relations have arrived, that we may rejoice and sing together the song of Moses and the Lamb for ever; which is the prayer and care of
2 THESS. II. 1.
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.
THAT Jesus Christ will come down from heaven to judge the world, is an article of our faith, commonly believed among professed Christians: but there have been useless, endless disputes about the time of his coming. One would think, however, that what our Lord saith Matt. xxiv. 36, should silence men's curious inquiries and presumptuous assertions concerning this secret, for he saith, "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only;" no, nor Christ himself as man.* No, say they, the day and hour cannot be known, but the year may. But that is a poor evasion, for by day and hour is meant the time; and if Christ know not, no wonder if he foretold it not to his disciples: for wise reasons it is concealed, and especially that we may be always ready. Grotius indeed saith, that Paul thought the
* Mark xiii. 32.
coming of Christ would be in his days, yet you see in the passage to which I have referred, and the context, and also in the chapter before us, that it would not be till certain signs foretold should come to pass, and after that, Christians were still to expect it as uncertain. Ignorance of it is needful, but error about it is hurtful; let us study what tends to practice.
In the text, the blessed apostle doth earnestly beseech them by all that is dear unto them, that no pretence either of spirit, word, or apostolical letter, do persuade them that Christ's coming is near at hand, for fear of tormenting their minds, or staggering their faith when they should find it otherwise. What those preceding signs are, see Baxter's Paraphrase on this chapter.
All that I shall do is, to take notice of this solemn appeal or obtestation in this text, wherein he adjures them: first, by the coming of our Lord; secondly, by our gathering together unto him.
It is a sacred and solemn oath, like that in 1 Cor. xv. 31, "I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily:" so here, it is as if he should say, as you have a high and honourable regard for Jesus Christ himself, and as you have a great concern, and make due preparation for the coming of Christ, by which he will gather us all to himself, and actually perfect the unity of his mystical body, both which are represented as proper objects of faith, which we admire and expect and highly esteem; I do again beseech you by these, be not too credulous of men's predictions, who assign that day to this or that time as they fancy; sometimes preposterously hastening it, other whiles procrastinating it, to a vast distance. I must tell you, saith Paul, these conceits are scattered by Satan's artifice; and it becomes a dangerous figment or invention of men's brains, for if it come not to pass,
some languish in their faith, others grow presumptuous in their security. If the devil prevail thus far, he will so work, that he will leave nothing sure or fixed in matters of religion,* as Calvin saith on this text; yea, by this means men loosen the cords, and break the bands that join together the articles of our faith, and even strike at the foundation article of the resurrection. Observation 1. Ministers must beseech.
As they may command in their master's name, so as servants they must beseech all the faithful,† 1 Thess. iv. 1, "We beseech you and exhort you;" ipwrμEV, we humbly and earnestly desire you, as if we went down on our knees to you: hence 1 Thess. ii. 7, 8, "We were gentle among you even as a nurse cherisheth her children." Our business is important, sinners are obdurate, we have great need to use the most obliging terms, as though God did beseech sinners by us, "to pray them in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God," 2 Cor. v. 20.
Obs. 2. All God's servants are brethren.
Be they high or low, rich or poor, the most eminent apostles or meanest, yea, weakest believers, they are brethren, they have all one father, God, one elder brother, Christ, one holy Spirit that animates them all, one covenant of grace to include them, one heavenly inheritance of which they are heirs. Hence the apostle saith, Col. i. 2, "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ." O what an endearing relation is this! let us live up to it.
Obs. 3. Christ will certainly come to judgment.
It is certain this Nobleman is gone into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return to reckon with his servants, Luke xix. 12-27. Christ's
Ut nihil in religione certum aut fixum reliquerit. + 1 Thess. v. 12.