EschatologyMiscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
340. Antichrist. There is a very great resemblance in many things between the devil and the devilish apostasy, and Antichrist and the antichristian apostasy. The former, of angels became devils: so the pope and his clergy were gospel ministers, who are called angels. the apostasy of the angels was in heaven and from heaven: so the apostasy of Antichrist is in and from the Christian church, the holy Jerusalem. Antichrist sits in the temple of God. showing himself that he is God. Satan attempted to make himself king and sovereign over the other angels: so the pope arrogates to himself to be the king and sovereign over all Christ’s ministers and over the universal church.
368. Antichrist. One end of that great apostasy and long time of darkness, was that the church might be brought off from all dependence upon tradition, and from pinning our faith upon the faith of the generations of Christians, and making their customs our rule (which the primitive church was much given to), that they might depend to the end of world only upon God’s revelation of his will, which he has given for our rule.
1273. How the Pope Is Antichrist. “The devil was worshipped in the world as God and therefore it is said, Rev. 12, that he and his angels were in heaven. Why? Because they were worshipped as gods and he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. When Constantine turned Christian all the world turned Christian too. Then all his devils were thrown down from having that worship as they always had before — But when he ceased to be a god — that he might imitate God who has set up his Son Jesus Christ, as likewise has set up his son Antichrist whose kingdom and the devils are in many things just alike — It is said Rev. 14:2. The Dragon did give the Beast his power and seat and great authority. Antichrist is the oldest son of Satan as Christ is the oldest Son of God.” [Dr. Goodwin, p. 40, 41.]
CONCERNING CHRIST’S SECOND COMING
842. Christ’s Second Coming. With respect to that objection against the truth of the Christian religion, that the apostles seem often to speak of the coming of Christ to judgment, as if they thought it near at hand; I will begin with what the apostle Paul says that may have such appearance.
He says in the first epistle to the Thessalonians, which is reckoned to be the first of his epistles in the order of time, and particularly 1 Thes. 4:15-17, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep: for the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we be ever with the Lord.” Now from this place some may be ready to say that here the apostle plainly speaks as though he expected this coming of Christ while the bigger part of the Christians that were then alive should be still living. He speaks of those that should then be alive, in the first person plural, and of those that should be asleep in the third person plural. Whereas, if he expected that the day of judgment would be long after they were all dead. then it would have been more natural for him to have said, “They which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent us, who shall then be asleep.” — And in 1 Thes. 4:17, “Then they which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with us.”
To this I say,
1. Considering the scope of the apostle in these verses, all that can be inferred from such a manner of speaking is that it might, for ought was then revealed, be while they lived. For the scope of the apostle was to comfort the Thessalonians concerning their friends that were already dead, with the consideration that they should surely meet them again, if not before, at the day of the Lord’s coming. These were those that were asleep of whom the apostle is especially speaking Therefore it was most proper and natural for the apostle to speak of them in the third person: more proper than of those that should be alive, seeing it was uncertain but that they should be of them. The apostles drift leads him to make such a supposition, because he would speak of the time when, at the farthest, they should certainly again meet with their deceased friends. And if they did not meet them before, then they would be alive at that time. And it is but just to suppose that it was only the uncertainty of the time that was the ground of the apostle’s using such a manner of expression, because he, in this very context, speaks of the time as altogether uncertain: as it follows immediately in the beginning of the next chapter, “But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you: for yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night,” etc. The apostle, by the expression he uses, probably had in his mind those words of Christ in Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know the times and seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (See M 1109)
2. That the apostle did not intend to be understood, as though it were certain that Christ would come while they were living, is evident from what he himself says, speaking of those very words and expressly denying that he intended any such things, or that he supposed it to be certain that the coming of Christ was at hand, in any such sense. See 2 Thes. 2:1-3 where he very earnestly warns them not to understand him in any such sense. “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,” etc.
Now it is evident that the apostle does not thus write to them the second time, endeavoring to retract anything he had written before, but it must be because he really did not intend so at first. For this epistle was written soon after the other, while the same fellow-laborers were with him. Both the epistles are begun in the same manner (1 Thes. 1:1, 2 Thes. 1:1) and both have been supposed to be written while the apostle abode in Athens, as appears by the postscripts. And if we well observe the contents of this and the foregoing epistle, the principle occasion of the apostle’s writing the second so soon after the other seems to have been an information he had received that his former epistle had been misunderstood in this particular. And being much concerned about it, and fearing the ill consequences of such a misunderstanding, he writes to guard them from the mischief of such a mistake and to establish them in it: that it is uncertain when the Lord will come, as he had told them before in his other epistle (1 Thes. 5). And he argues the great uncertainty there was, whether it would be in that age or not, from what the Holy Ghost had revealed about the coming of antichrist.
That this apostle did not expect Christ’s coming in that generation may be argued from his speaking as though he expected that those that were then alive would rise from the dead at Christ’s second coming, as in 1 Cor. 6:14, “And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.” And, 2 Cor. 4:14, “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.”
From what the apostle says in this second chapter of the second epistle to the Thessalonians (2 Thes. 2), there appears a necessity that those passages in any other of his epistles, which look as though he expected that Christ would come in that age, should be understood in some other sense, and that the apostle really did not mean so, as his words on a cursory view would lead us to suppose. For here the apostle is very express and full, and earnest in it, that he would by no means be so understood. And he does not say so now in this epistle to the Thessalonians, because he altered his mind since he wrote his other epistles to other churches. For those epistles to the Thessalonians were the first ones that he wrote (See the evidence of this in Roberts’s Key of the Bible). It is a further evidence that those passages in other epistles must be understood in some other sense, in that there are passages in this very epistle, particularly in the first chapter, that we should be ready to think had such a look, were it not that the apostle himself, immediately in the second chapter, denies any such meaning.
In this sense we must understand those passages, in which it is spoken of as a duty of Christians, to look and wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus; as, Tit. 2:13; 1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20. This implies no more than that they, in those days, should expect, in God’s time, to see that day, and that they knew not when that would come. And that they should earnestly desire it and be patient while it was delayed, and still look for it and depend on it, though it was delayed.
There is a necessity of understanding, in like manner, the following passages — which were all written after this to the Thessalonians — Rom. 13:11-12, “And that knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” We cannot understand this as though the apostle concluded the day of judgment would come while they lived, because he had before explained himself otherwise: but only that the day of Christ’s kingdom, which is the day of the salvation of the church of Christ (and that which the Holy Ghost had before intended by the kingdom of heaven), was near at hand. Therefore, the Holy Ghost directed the apostle to use such words. And so, Phil. 4:5, “Let your moderation be known to all men: the Lord is at hand.” And Heb. 10:25, “Exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”
Christ’s coming was indeed at hand in many respects, and in such respects as might well have all that influence intended upon those to whom the apostle wrote to. The coming of Christ at the overthrow of the heathen empire might well be said to be at hand, and Christ’s last coming to judgment might well, considering all things, be said to be at hand, as the apostle Peter observes, though there should be thousands of years between. The apostle Paul speaks of ages to come, Eph. 2:7. That it was not to be till many generations were past:,yet it was at hand, in a sense agreeable to the common language of the Holy Spirit. So, Christ’s first coming was spoken of as very nigh at hand, of old. Hag. 2:6, 7, “For thus saith the Lord of hosts, Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land, and I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” Yet there was then above 500 years to it. And when it was about 400 years, it is said, Mal. 3:1, “The Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple; even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in.” And when it was about 700 years to the gospel day, it is said to be but a very little while. Isa. 29:17, 18, “Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.” So God represents as though he would very quickly perform all the things prophesied of by Jeremiah, though some of them were not to be fulfilled in many ages; Jer. 1:10-12. So the time is said to be at hand, for the accomplishment of all the prophesies of the book of Revelation, and Christ’s last coming at the conclusion of them, Rev. 1:3, and Rev. 22:7, 10, 12, 20, though the book evidently contains a series of events for many ages.
So then when the apostle Peter says, with respect to Christ’s last coming, and its being said to be at hand, that “a thousand years in God’s sight are but as one day,” it is no new conceit of his own to save reputation. But God’s language that he had used of old justifies him in so saying. And the expression that the apostles used about the approach of Christ’s coming did not tend to the disappointment of God’s people. For Christ’s coming to reward them at death was at hand, when they should have such a comfortable and full prospect of their complete reward at Christ’s last coming: so that they shall anticipate it, and as it were, have a possession of it. Then it will appear very nigh unto them. Though the time appears long to us in our dim-sighted state, yet it will appear as nothing to them. The second coming of Christ was so nigh at hand that the church of God might well take all that comfort from what was really to be understood by those expressions. The first coming of Christ was very often spoken of for the comfort of the saints of the Old Testament, under great affliction, though they were never like to see it in this lifetime. So in the case of Zerubbabel, and Joshua, and Daniel.
As to that text of the apostle in 1 Cor. 10:11, “And they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come;” the connection of these words with the context, and the drift of the apostle, explain his meaning. For his drift is only this: that what had happened to the children of Israel in the wilderness, happened to them for ensamples and were written for our sakes though they happened so long ago, or though we live so long after them. And with respect to them, in the ends of the world (or in the latter part of the world’s duration), [refers to] in these days that then, and long after that time, used to be called the latter days.
As to what is said that may seem to look as though the apostles soon expected the last coming of Christ in 1 Pet. 4:7, “The end of all things is at hand,” which is an expression that seems to have such a look. Yet how did this same apostle explain this propinquity? 2 Pet. 3:7, 8, “But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” And it is to be considered that the apostle Peter was under no temptation to change his voice in this matter, from any experience of the events failing as yet. He had not lived long enough to prove but that Christ’s words — whence any may suppose they might expect Christ’s second coming before the generation passed away, and before some that were then present should taste of death — might be fulfilled in that sense.
That there was no such notion prevailing among the disciples, that Christ should come while most of them lived, is manifest from this: that when the disciples mistook the design of Christ’s words, John 21:22, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (and from thence, for a while, entertained a notion that that disciple was not to die till Christ came), it seems they even while under this mistake (verse 23), looked upon it as the distinguishing privilege of that disciple, which none of the rest were to expect. And it is evident that John himself concluded no such thing, as that Christ should come in his lifetime, because he speaks of that notion of the other disciples about him as ill-founded.
It is a further argument that when the apostles used such kind of language as that, “the Lord is at hand,” etc., they did not use it in any such sense as that it should be in that age or the next. The apostle John, who was accustomed to their language, used it still when he was very old (and all the other apostles were dead), and even after he had prophesied of many great events, which plainly were to have their accomplishment in many successive ages.
He uses it in the beginning of the book of Revelation, as Rev. 3:11, “Behold, I come quickly.” And he uses it repeatedly at the end of the book, after he had given an account of those future events, in Rev. 22:7, “Behold, I come quickly;” and Rev. 22:20, “He that testifieth these things, saith, Surely I come quickly.” The 17th chapter of this book (Rev. 17) alone is sufficient to convince anyone that John could not suppose that his prophecies could be fulfilled, but in several successive ages.
It is an argument that such a nearness of Christ’s last coming, as the objection supposes, was not the doctrine that the apostles so much insisted upon, in that the church prevailed still, when they saw that Christ did not come. Such disappointment would have been a dreadful blow to Christianity, if this had been the universal expectation of Christians, and it had been raised by the abundant promises of Christ and his apostles. They probably, upon it, would have exceedingly lost ground, and shrunk away. But the fact was very much the contrary.
1109. Christ’s Second Coming. [Concerning the expression in 1 Thes. 4:15-17, and the objection that the apostles seem often to speak of the return of Christ as near at hand.] We have an instance of a like nature with this, in the words of Joseph to his brethren, Gen. 50:25, “God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.” He does not say, God shall visit your posterity, and they shall carry up my bones from hence. Yet it cannot be argued, that Joseph concluded that the redemption out of Egypt would be in that generation. Their posterity was the same Israelite church, and very often in the Old Testament posterity is spoken of and to with their ancestors as though they were themselves. Here it may be observed that though the Israelite church, which to be redeemed out of Egypt, was at much one with Joseph as with any of his brethren. Yet he does not speak in the first person (God will surely visit us) but in the second person (God will surely visit you). For it was certain the Joseph who spoke would not then be alive, for he was about to leave the world. The nature of Joseph’s discourse made it necessary to distinguish between him and those that should be thus visited, because he is leaving a precept to them respecting himself, as one that would be dead then, viz., that they should carry up his bones.
So the nature and design of the apostle’s discourse [in 1 Thes. 4:15-17], necessarily gave him to distinguish between those that should be alive at Christ’s coming, and the deceased relations of the Christian Thessalonians. He speaks of them as already dead, and of their now living friends then meeting them risen from the dead.
1198. Christ’s Second Coming. What Christ says to his disciples in Luke 17:22, is a confirmation that Christ’s second coming would be long delayed. By “the days of the Son of man” is meant the days of Christ’s personal appearance in this lower world, perhaps including both his first and second appearing, but with a special reference to his second appearing. This is apparent from the context: see from the 20th verse to the end, especially verse 26 (Luke 17:20-26). It further appears by what is said in the former part of the next chapter, which is a continuation of the same discourse, and still with reference to the same things, viz., his coming, especially by Luke 18:1, 7, 8.
1199. Christ’s Second Coming. Having particularly considered the sayings of the apostles, which have an appearance as though they expected Christ’s last coming in their day, I would now consider the sayings of Christ, which have such an aspect. To clear this matter, the following things may be observed:
1. Christ often speaks of his last coming as that which would be long delayed, Mat. 25:5, “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” Luke 20:9, “A certain man planted a vineyard;” Mat. 25:19, “After a long time, the Lord of those servants cometh and reckoneth with them.” Mat. 24:48, “My Lord delayeth his coming.” So Luke 17:22.
2. It is evident that when Christ speaks of his coming (of his being revealed, of his coming in his kingdom, or his kingdom coming), he has respect to his appearing in those great works of his power, justice, and grace, which should be in the destruction of Jerusalem and other extraordinary providences which should attend it. So in Luke 17:2, to the end, Luke 18:1-8. Christ speaks of “the kingdom of God coming; of the coming of the days of the Son of man being revealed; and of the Son of man coming.” But yet, it is evident he has respect to the destruction of Jerusalem, by Luke 17:37. “And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” See also Luke 19:13-15. So when the disciples had been observing the magnificence of the temple and Christ had said to them, “Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down,” — having respect to the destruction of Jerusalem — the disciples asked him when these things should be: “What should be the signs of his coming, and of the end of the world?” By Christ’s coming they have plainly a respect to that time of the destruction of the temple, which Christ had spoken of. And therefore, their question is thus expressed by St. Mark 13:3, 4, “Tell us when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?” And in like manner by St. Luke 21:7. Christ has many things in his answer agreeable to this sense of this question. He warns them to beware of others that should come instead, Mat. 24:4, 5. Then he proceeds to tell them what will proceed the end, i.e. the end of the world, which the disciples inquired after, and he tells them what shall be signs of its approach, Mat. 24:6-16. And then speaks of the desolation of Jerusalem and of the land, as that end and that coming of his which they inquired after, Mat. 24:15-21, 28, and more plainly, Luke 21:20-24.
3. It is manifest that the event to which Christ sometimes has respect by his coming in his kingdom, and by the end of the world, etc., he did not suppose would be at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. He speaks of that event as attended with general judgment and all nations being gathered before his judgment seat to receive an eternal sentence, Mat. 25, the latter part. This judgment will be attended with the general resurrection of the dead, John 5:21, 22, 25-30. After this resurrection, and at the end of this world, the saints shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, but they shall be as the angels of God in heaven, Mat. 22:30; especially Luke 20:34-36. And at the last coming and the end of the world, all the wicked of all the nations shall be cast into a furnace of fire, into everlasting fire, Mat. 13:39-42, chap. 25:40-46. And the righteous shall then be as wheat gathered into God’s barn, shall enter into the kingdom prepared for them before the foundation of the world, shall be received to Christ to live with him where he is in his Father’s house in heaven, and shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father, in the possession of immortal life, Mat. 13:30, 39, 43; Mat. 25:34, 46; John 14:1-3; John 17:24.
When Christ spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem, he did not expect that these things would be accomplished at that time. For he speaks of that destruction as being of his enemies, as not of all nations or the whole wicked world, but as principally confined to Judea Luke 21:20-22; Mat. 24:15-17; Mark 13:14-15. He speaks of the great disadvantages they should be under and directs them to pray that their flight may not be in the winter, Mat. 14:19-20; Mark 13:17-18; Luke 21:23. But how do those things agree to the time when they should be as the angels in heaven, and there to shine forth as the sun? He speaks of this destruction as being by war, by the sword of men and by the Roman armies, Luke 21:23-24; Mat. 24:28; Luke 17:37; Mat. 22:7; Luke 19:43-44 By this it appears that Christ had no thought that then the world should be destroyed, and all mankind disposed in their eternal state: the righteous in heaven and the wicked all cast into a furnace of fire.
Christ supposes that the nations should remain after the destruction of Jerusalem and that the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to another nation, Mat. 21:41-43; Luke 20:15-16. And it appears by the parable of the marriage supper that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles and be gloriously successful among them after Jerusalem’s destruction, Mat. 22:7-10.
From these things it follows,
4. That when Christ speaks of his coming, his coming in his kingdom, etc. as being in that generation, and before some who were then alive should taste of death, there is no need of understanding him of his coming to the last judgment. But it may well be understood of his coming at the destruction of Jerusalem, which as has been shown, he calls by these names, and which he also distinguishes from his coming to the last judgment and consummation of all things.
5. It is evident that he did not suppose his coming to last judgment and the consummation of all things, would be till a long time after the destruction of Jerusalem. The calling of the Gentiles, instead of the Jews, is spoken of as what should be principally after the destruction of Jerusalem; Mat. 21:41, 43; Luke 20:15, 16; Mat. 22:7-10. But this Christ himself speaks of as a gradual work, in the parables of the grain and the mustard seed, and of the leaven hid in three measures of meal; Mat. 13:31-33; Luke 13:19-21; Mark 4:26-32. And it is very manifest that Christ did not suppose the consummation of all things to take place, till long after the destruction of Jerusalem, Luke 21:24, where it is said of the Jews that they should be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem should be trodden down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled.
It is considerably manifest that Christ, in these words as in some other things he says in this discourse, has his respect to what is said in the last chapter of Daniel (Dan. 12). In the great tribulation he speaks of, Mat. 24:21, 22, he has manifestly in his eye what is said in Dan. 12:1. And in what he says here of the times of the Gentiles, he has respect to the times spoken of in Dan. 12:6, 7, as will appear by comparing and observing the agreement. But these times are there spoken of as very long.
A FUTURE STATE: THE PROPRIETY OF A GENERAL JUDGMENT
582. Future State. Divine Revelation. If the New Testament be not a true revelation of God, then God never yet has given the world any clear revelation of a future state. But if a revelation be needful upon any account, it is that we may have some certain and distinct knowledge of the future invisible world that we are to be in after death and after this world comes to an end. We must therefore suppose that God did design a further revelation than the Old Testament, because a future state was not clearly revealed by that. And it is not credible that God should defer it to this time, partly by reason of the length of time since the finishing of that revelation, which is about two thousand years. If that revelation was only introductory to another, it is hardly credible that there should be so long a space between the introduction and that other revelation to which it was an introduction. Besides, this clear revelation of a future state would now be out of season, because all the world has already received the doctrine of a future world for many ages. If God designed a true revelation, it is not probable that he would suffer that any false revelation should anticipate it and do the work beforehand. And upon many other accounts that might be mentioned, it is incredible that the true revelation should still be deferred.
716. Future State. Dr. Tillotson shows, in sermons 120-123, first what arguments natural reason furnishes us with [to prove] that there is a future state, and how this was a received principle among all nations: both in former and in latter ages of the world. [He also shows] how it was looked upon as exceedingly probable by the wisest philosophers, who yet seemed to long for a greater certainty and to have it plainly revealed, whether it was so or not. Having shown what expectations the Jews had from the light of nature, together with the more obscure revelations made to them of it, he then proceeds to show how fully this matter is brought to light by the gospel that seemed somewhat obscure before, in that,
1. The gospel makes a most clear and express revelation of it, absolutely and plainly, and abundantly discovers the thing.
2. It is not only revealed and declared, but that the [future] state is described with its very particular circumstances. And, says the Doctor:
3. “The gospel gives us yet further assurance of these things, by such an argument as is most likely to be convincing and satisfactory to common capacities, and that is by a lively influence of the thing to be proved, in raising Christ from the dead, Acts 17:30, 31. It is true, indeed, under the Old Testament there were two instances somewhat of that nature. Enoch and Elias were immediately translated and taken up to heaven. But those two instances do in many respects fall short of the other. For after Christ was raised from the dead, he conversed forty days with his disciples and satisfied them that he was risen. After which he was in their sight visibly taken up into heaven. And as an evidence that he was possessed of his glorious kingdom, he sent down, according to his promise, his Holy Spirit in miraculous gifts, to assure them by these testimonies of his royalty, that he was in heaven and to qualify them, by these miraculous powers, to convince the world of the truth of their doctrine. What argument [is] more proper to convince them of another life after this, than to see a man raised from the dead and restored to a new life? What fitter to satisfy a man concerning heaven and the happy state of those there, than to see one visibly taken up into heaven? And what more fit to assure us that the promises of the gospel are real and shall be made good to us, than to see him who made those promises to us, raise himself from the dead and go up into heaven, and from thence dispense miraculous gifts abroad in the world, as evidences of the power and authority with which he is invested? All the philosophical arguments which a man can bring for the soul’s immortality and another life, will have no more force upon vulgar apprehensions, in comparison of these sensible demonstrations, which give an experiment of the thing and furnish us with an instance of something of the same kind, and of equal difficulty with that which is propounded to our belief?”
864. Future State. Moral Government. The God that is the Creator of the world is doubtless also the Governor of it: for he is able to govern it. He that had power to give being to the world, and set all the part of it in order, has doubtless power to dispose of the world, to continue the order he has constituted, or to alter it. He that gave being at first can continue being or put an end to it, and therefore nothing can stand in his way. If anything stands in his way, he can put an end to its being, or diminish it, and weaken it as he pleases. He that constituted the world in a certain order, can, if he pleases, constitute things otherwise, in another order, either in whole or in part, at once or gradually, or (what is the same thing), he can cause what alterations he pleases in the state of things, or cause the state of things to proceed in what course he pleases. He that first gave the laws of nature, must have all nature in his hands, so that it is evident God has the world in his hands, to dispose of as he pleases. And as God is able, so he is inclined, to govern the world. For as he is an understanding being, he had some end in what he did, otherwise he did not act as a voluntary agent in making the world. That being never acts voluntarily, that has no end in what he does, and aims at nothing at all in it. Neither God nor man is properly said to make anything that necessarily or accidentally proceeds from them, but that only which is voluntarily produced. Besides, we see in the particular parts of the world that God had a particular end in their formation. They are fitted for such an end. By which it appears that the Creator did act as a voluntary agent, proposing final causes in the work of creation, and he that made the particular parts for certain ends, doubtless made the whole for a certain end. And if God made the world for some end, doubtless he will choose to have this world disposed of to answer that end. For his proposing the end supposes that he chooses it should be obtained. Therefore, it follows that God will choose to take care that the world be disposed of to the obtaining of his own ends, which is the same thing as his choosing to have the government of the world. And it is manifest, in fact, that God is not careless how the affairs and concerns of the world he has made proceed, because he was not careless of this matter in the creation itself, as it is apparent, by the manner and order in which things were created, that God, in creating, took care of the future progress and state of things in the world. He contrived that things might so and so proceed and be regulated, and that such and such events might be produced. So that it is manifest that the Creator is not careless of the state of things in his world. This being established, I now proceed to show that it must be, that God maintains a moral government over the world of mankind.
1. If it be certain that God is concerned, and does take care, how things proceed in the state of the world he has made, then he will be especially concerned how things proceed in the state of the world of mankind. This is manifest by three things: First. Mankind are the principal part of the visible creation. They have understanding, are voluntary agents, and can produce works of their own will, design, and contrivance, as God does. And the Creator looks upon them as the principal part of his visible creation, as is manifest, because he has set them at the head of his creation. The world is evidently made to be a habitation for man, and all things about him are subordinated to his use. Now if God be careful how the world that he has made be regulated, that his end may be answered, and that it may not be in vain, he will be especially careful of this concerning the principal part of it, and in the same proportion that it is principal or superior in his own account to the rest. Because if that superior part be in vain, there is much more in vain than if a less part was in vain: so much more as his loss (as I may say) is so much the greater, in its being in vain, according as the part is superior in his account.
Second. The more God has respect to any part of the world he has made, the more concerned he will be about the state of that part. But it is manifest, by the creation itself, that God has more respect or regard to man, than to any other part of the visible creation, because he has evidently made and fitted other parts of man’s use. If God be concerned how things proceed in the world he has made, he will be so chiefly in that part of his world that he has set his heart most upon.
Third. It is evident that God is principally concerned about the state of things in the world of mankind. In creation, he subordinated the state of things in the inferior world, to the state of things in the world of mankind, and he so contrived that the affairs of the former should be subservient to the affairs of the latter. And therefore God will not leave the world of mankind to themselves, without taking any care to govern and order their state, so that this part of the world may be regulated decently and beautifully, and that there may be good order in the intelligent, voluntary and active, and so a superior part of the creation. Or which is the same thing, he will take care that the world of mankind be regulated with respect to its moral state, and so will maintain a good moral government over the world of mankind. It is evident by the manner in which God has formed and constituted other things, that he has respect to beauty, good order and regulation, proportion and harmony: so in the system of the world, in the seasons of the year, in the formation of plants, and of the various parts of the human body. Surely, therefore, he will not leave the principal part of the creation, about the state of which he is evidently chiefly concerned, without making any proper provision for its being in any other than a state of deformity, discord, and the most hateful and dreadful confusion. And especially so in what relates to those things in them, by which alone they are distinguished, and are superior and more valuable than the rest of the world, viz., their intelligence, will, and voluntary actions, and therefore, upon the account of which alone, God has more regard to them and is more concerned about their state.
By what has been already said, God is most concerned about the state and government of that which is highest in his creation, and which he values most, and so he is principally concerned about the ordering the state of mankind, which is a part of the creation that he has made superior, and that he values most. And therefore, in like manner, it follows that he is principally concerned about the regulation of that which he values most in men, viz., what appertains to his intelligence and voluntary acts. If there be anything in the principal part of the creation that the Creator values more than other parts, it must be that wherein it is above them, or, at least, something wherein it differs from them. But the only thing wherein men differ from the inferior creature, is intelligent perception and action. This is that in which the Creator has made man to differ from the rest of the creation, and by which he has set him over it, and by which he governs the inferior creatures, and uses them for himself. And therefore it must needs be that the Creator should be chiefly concerned that the state of mankind should be regulated according to his will, with respect to what appertains to him as an intelligent, voluntary creature. Hence it must be that God does take care that a good moral government should be maintained over men, that his intelligent, voluntary acts should be all subject to rules, and that with respect to them all, he should be the subject of judicial proceeding. For unless this be, there is no care taken that the state of mankind, with respect to their intelligent, voluntary acts, should be regulated at all, but all things will be remedilessly in the utmost deformity, confusion and ruin. The world of mankind, instead of being superior, will be the worse, and the more hateful, and the more vile and miserable, for having the faculties of reason and will, and this highest part of the creation will be the lowest, and infinitely the most confused, deformed, and detestable, without any provision for rectifying its evils. And the God of order, peace, and harmony that constituted the inferior parts of the world, which he has subjected to man and made subservient to him, in such decency, beauty, and harmony, will appear to have left this chief part of his work, and the end of all the rest, to the reign of everlasting discord, confusion, and ruin. [They will be] contradicting and conflicting with their own nature and faculties: having reason and yet acting in all things contradictory to it, being men but yet beasts, setting sense above reason, and improving reason only as a weapon of mischief and destruction of God’s workmanship. God has so made and constituted the world of mankind that he has made it natural and necessary that they should be concerned one with another, linked together in society, by the manner of their propagation, their defending one from another, their need one of another, and their inclination to society. We see that in other parts of the creation, wherein many particulars are dependent and united into one body, there is an excellent harmony and mutual subserviency throughout the whole, as in all bodies natural. How then can we believe that God has ordered so much of the contrary in the principal part of his creation?
2. I would again argue that God must maintain a moral government over mankind, thus: — It is evident that it was agreeable to the Creator’s design, that there should be some moral government maintained amongst men, because, without any, either in nations, provinces, towns, or families, and also without any divine government over the whole, the world of mankind could not subsist, but would destroy itself. Men would be not only much more destructive to each other than any kind of animals are to their own species, but a thousand times more than any kind of beasts are to those of any other species. Therefore, the nature that God has given all mankind, and the circumstances in which he has placed them, lead all, in all ages throughout the habitable world, into moral government. And the Creator doubtless intended this for the preservation of this highest species of creatures. Otherwise he has made much less provision for the defense and preservation of this species, than of any other. There is no kind of creature that he has left without proper means for its own preservation. But unless man’s own reason, to be improved in moral rule and order, be the means he has provided for the preservation of man, he has provided him with no means at all. Therefore, it is doubtless the original design of the Creator: that there should be moral subordination amongst men, and that he designed there should be heads, princes, or governors, to whom honor, subjection, and obedience should be paid. Now this strongly argues that the Creator himself will maintain a moral government over the whole in several ways:
First. Without this, the preservation of the species is but very imperfectly provided for. If men have nothing but human government to be a restraint upon their lusts, and have no rule or judgment of an universal omniscient governor to be a restraint upon their consciences, still they are left in a most woeful condition. And the preservation and common benefit of the species, according to its necessities, and the exigencies of its place, nature, and circumstances in the creation, is in nowise provided for, as the preservation and necessities of other species are.
Second. As the Creator has made it necessary that there should be some of our fellow creatures that should have rule over us, he has therein so ordered it that some of them should have some image of his own disposing power over others. (For as was shown before, God has the disposing power of the whole world.) Now is it reasonable to think that the Creator would so constitute the circumstances of mankind that some particular persons, who have only a little image and shadow of his greatness and power over men, should exercise it in giving forth edicts and executing judgment, and that he who is above all, and the original of all, should exercise no power in this way himself, when mankind stand in so much more need of such an exercise of his power than of the power of human governors?
Third. He has infinitely the greatest right to exercise the power of a moral governor if he pleases. His relation to man as his Creator most naturally leads to it. He is infinitely the most worthy of that respect, honor, and subjection that is due to a moral governor. He has infinitely the best qualifications of a governor, being infinitely wise, powerful, and holy, and his government will be infinitely the most effectual to answer the ends of government.
Fourth. It is manifest that the Creator of the world, in constituting human moral governments among men, has, in that constitution, had great respect to those qualifications, that relation, and those rights and obligations, in those whom he has appointed to be rulers, and in putting others under their moral government, which he has in himself in a vastly more eminent degree. As particularly in the government of parents over their children, which of all other kinds of human moral government is most evidently founded in nature, and which the preservation of the species does most immediately require. Here God has set those to be moral rulers, who are the wiser and stronger, and has appointed those to be in subjection who are less knowing, and weaker, and have received being from their rulers, and are dependent, preserved, and maintained. Would not he therefore maintain moral government himself over mankind, who is their universal father, their universal preserver, who maintains all, and provides all with food and raiment, and all the necessaries and enjoyments of life, and is infinitely wiser and stronger than they? Would not he maintain a moral government over men, who need his government, as children need the government of their parents, and who are no more fit to be left to themselves in the world without his rules, directions, authority, promises, threatenings, and judgment, than children are fit to be left to themselves in a house?
3. As man is made capable of knowing his Creator, so he is capable of a high esteem of his perfections, his power, wisdom, and goodness. He is capable of a proper esteem of God for his wise, excellent, and wonderful works, which he beholds; and for their admirable contrivance, which appears in so excellently ordering all things; and of gratitude to him for all the goodness of which he himself is the subject; or, on the contrary, of slighting and despising him, and hating him, finding fault with his works, reproaching him for them, slighting all his goodness which he receives from him: yea, hating him for ordering things in his providence to him as he has done, and cursing and blaspheming him for it.
Now it is unreasonable to suppose that God should be an indifferent spectator of those things in his creature made in his own image, and made superior to all other creatures, and in a creature that he values above all the rest of the creation. It cannot be equally agreeable to him, whether man gives him proper esteem, love, honor, and gratitude, or, on the contrary, unreasonably despises, hates, and curses him. And if he be not an indifferent spectator of these things, then he will not act as a perfectly indifferent spectator, and wholly let men alone, and order things in no respect differently for those ends one way or other. But so it must be, if God maintains no moral government over mankind.
4. As man is made capable of knowing his Creator, so he is capable of knowing his will in many things, i.e. he is capable of knowing his ends in this way and the other works which he beholds. For it is this way principally that he comes to know there is a God, even by seeing the final causes of things, by seeing that such and such things are plainly designed and contrived for such and such ends, and therefore he is capable of either complying with the will of his Creator, or opposing it. He is capable of falling in with God’s ends, and what he sees his Creator aim at and cooperating with him, or of setting himself against the Creator’s designs. It is manifest that it is the Creator’s design that parents should nourish their children, and that children should be subject to their parents.
If a man therefore should murder his children, or if children should rise up and murder their parents, they would oppose the Creator’s aims. So if men use the several bodily organs to quite contrary purposes to those for which they were given, and if they use the faculties of their own minds to ends quite contrary to those for which they were fitted (for doubtless they were given and fitted for some end or other), he may perversely use his dominion over the creatures against the ends to which they were given. For however far we suppose man may be from being capable of properly frustrating his Creator, yet he is capable of showing that his will is contrary to his Creator’s ends. He may oppose his Creator in his will, and he may dislike God’s ends and seek others. Now the Creator cannot be an indifferent spectator of this, for it is a contradiction to suppose that opposition to his will and aims should be as agreeable to him in itself, as complying with his will. And if he is not an indifferent spectator, then he will not act as such, and so he must maintain a moral government over mankind.
This argument is peculiarly strong as it respects man’s being capable of falling in with or opposing God’s ends in his own creation, and his endowing him with faculties above the rest of the world. It is exceeding manifest concerning mankind, that God must have made them for some end; not only as it is evident that God must have made the world in general for some end; not only as it is evident that God must have made the world in general for some end; and as man is an intelligent voluntary agent; — but as it is especially manifest from fact, that God has made mankind for some special end. For it is apparent, in fact, that God has made the inferior parts of the world for some end, and that the special end he made them for, is to subserve the benefit of mankind. Therefore, above all, may it be argued, that God has made mankind for some end. If an artificer accomplishes some great piece of workmanship, very complicated, and with a vast variety of parts, but the whole is so contrived and connected together that there is some particular part which all the other parts are to subserve, we should well conclude that the workman had some special design to serve by that part, and that his peculiar aim in the whole, was what he intended should be obtained by that part. Now man, the principal part of the creation, is capable of knowing his Creator, and is capable of discerning God’s ends in the formation of other things. Therefore, doubtless, since God discovers to him the ends for which he made other things, it would be very strange if he should not let him know the end for which he himself is made, or for which he had such distinguishing faculties given him, whereby he is set above other parts of the creation. Therefore, in the use of his own faculties, he must either fall in with the known design of the Creator in giving them, or thwart it. He must either cooperate with his Creator, as complying with the end of his own being, or wittingly set himself as his enemy. Of this the Creator cannot be an indifferent spectator, and therefore, by what was said before, must maintain moral government over mankind.
5. It may be argued that God maintains a moral government over the world of mankind, from this: that the special end of the being of man is something wherein he has to do with his Creator, some business where in he is especially concerned with God. The special end of the brute creation is something wherein they are concerned with men. But men’s special end is some improvement or use of his faculties towards God. First, I would show the truth of this, and then would show the consequence.
First. The special end for which God made mankind is something very diverse and very superior to those ends for which he made any part of the inferior creation, because God has made man very different from them. He has vastly distinguished him in the nature that he has given him, the faculties with which he has endowed him, and the place he has set him in the creation. Now if he has made man for nothing different from what he has made other creatures, then he has thus done in vain.
Second. Man’s special end does not respect any other parts of the visible creation. All these are below him, and all, as we observed before, are made for him, to be subservient to his use. Their special end respects him, but his special end does not respect them. For this is unreasonable in itself: if they are in their formation and end subordinated to him, and subjected to him, then the Maker set a greater value on him than them, and therefore he has not made him for them. For that would be to suppose them most valuable in the eyes of their Maker. And it is manifest, in fact, that the being of mankind does not subserve the benefit of the inferior creatures, any farther than is just necessary to turn them to his own use, and spend them in it.
We may add to this that the happiness of the greater part of mankind, in their worldly enjoyments, is not great enough, or durable enough, to prove that the end of all things in the whole visible universe is only that happiness. — Therefore, nothing else remains, no other supposition is possible, but that man’s special end is something wherein he has immediately to do with his Creator.
Third. If God has made men above other creatures, with capacities superior to them, for some special end, for which other creatures are not made, that special end must be something peculiar to them, for which they are capacitated and fitted by those superior faculties. Now the greatest thing that men are capacitated for, by their faculties, more than the beasts, is that they are capable of having intercourse with their Creator, as intelligent and voluntary agents. They are capable of knowing, esteeming, and loving him, and capable of receiving instructions and commands from him, and capable of obeying and serving him, if he be pleased to give commands and make a revelation of his mind. What business or enjoyment, in any measure so distinguishing and peculiar, are men capacitated for, by their superior faculties, as this? Indeed there is nothing material that is entirely peculiar, and in its nature distinguished. Men could have done as well and better for such things, and have been beasts or birds. It is a vast difference that God has made between some of his creatures and others: that he has made one capable of knowing himself, and so of loving and serving him, and enjoying him. Surely this is not without some end. He that has done nothing in the inferior world in vain, has not given man this capacity in vain. The sun has not its light given it without a final cause, and shall we suppose that mankind has this light of the knowledge of their Creator without a final cause?
Thus it is evident that the special end for which God has made man, is something wherein he has intercourse with his Creator, as an intelligent, voluntary agent. Hence the consequence is certain that mankind are subject to God’s moral government. For there can be no such thing maintained, as a communication between God and man, as between intelligent, voluntary agents, without moral government. For in maintaining communication or converse, one must yield to the other, and must comply with the other. There must be union of wills: one must be clothed with authority, the other with submission. If God has made man to converse with himself, he is not indifferent how he is conversed with. One manner of behavior must be agreeable to his will, and another not, and therefore God cannot act as indifferent in this matter. He cannot let man alone, to behave toward him just as he pleases. Therefore there must be moral government. God cannot be indifferent, whether he is respected and honored, or is condemned and hated.
Now as the consequence of the whole, I would infer two things:
(1.) A future state of rewards and punishments. For unless there be such a state, it will certainly follow that God, in fact, maintains no moral government over the world of mankind. For otherwise it is apparent that there is no such thing as rewarding or punishing mankind, according to any visible rule, or indeed, according to any order or method whatsoever. Without this, there may be desires manifested, but there can be no proper laws established, and no authority maintained. Nothing is more manifest, than that in this world there is no such thing as a regular, equal disposing of rewards and punishments of men according to their moral estate. There is nothing in God’s disposals toward men in this world, to make his distributive justice and judicial equity visible, but all things are in the greatest confusion. Often the wicked prosper, and are not in trouble as other men. — They become mighty in power, yea, it has commonly bee so in all ages that they have been uppermost in the world. They have the ascendant over the righteous. They are mounted on thrones, while the righteous remain in cottages. And in this world, the cause of the just is not vindicated. — Many wicked men have the righteous in their power, and trample them under foot, and become their cruel persecutors. And the righteous are oppressed and suffer all manner of injuries and cruelties, while the wicked live and reign in great glory and prosperity.
(2.) What has been said does invincibly argue a divine revelation. And that 1st. Because if God maintains a moral government over mankind, then there must be rewards and punishments. But these sanctions must be declared: for instance, the punishments which enforce God’s laws must be made known. To suppose that God keeps up an equal, perfect moral government over the world, and yet leaves men wholly at a loss about the nature, manner, degree, time, place, and continuance of their punishment, or leaves it only to their guesses, or for them to argue it out from the nature of things, as well as they can, and everyone to make his judgment according as his notions shall guide him, is a very unreasonable supposition. If moral government be maintained, the order and method of government must be visible. Otherwise it loses the nature of moral government. There must be a powerful disposal, as inanimate, unintelligible things are the subjects of God’s government, in a visible and established order, but no moral government. The order of government serves to maintain authority, and to influence and rule the subject morally, no further than it is visible. 2nd. The notion of a moral government without a revelation or declaration of the mind of the head, by his Word or some voluntary sign or signification, in the whole of it is absurd. If God maintains a moral government over a society of intelligent creatures, doubtless there must be a revelation. How absurd is it to suppose that there should be converse and moral government maintained between the head and subjects, when both are intelligent, voluntary agents, without a voluntary communication of minds and expressions, thoughts and inclinations, between the head and the members of the society!
1007. Judgment Day. The doctrine taught in the Scriptures, that at the end of the world all mankind shall stand together before the judgment-seat of the supreme Lawgiver and Judge, to have all things visibly set to rights — and justice made visibly to take place with respect to all the persons, actions, and affairs of the moral world, by the infinitely wise, holy, and just Head of it — is a most reasonable doctrine, and much commends itself to our belief, from the reason of the thing, on the supposition of a moral government maintained over the world by him who created it. For this implies that he governs the world as its lawgiver and judge, and will treat men as accountable creatures. God’s moral government not only requires, that there should be divine laws, and an execution of them in rewards and punishments, but also that both should be made visible. It is requisite that the subject should have proper means of knowing what the laws are, by which he is obligated, and the grounds of the obligation, and that others who are his fellow-subjects should also know his obligations. For as men are made to dwell in society, this cannot well be, without knowing each other’s obligations, and being able to judge of the good or evil of each other’s actions. It is likewise requisite that the subject of the laws should have proper means of knowing the grounds of the rewards or punishments of which he is the subject, in the execution of the laws; and that it should be made manifest, to the conscience of him who is rewarded or punished, what he is rewarded or punished for, and the ground on which the Judge assigns such a retribution; and if he see others punished or acquitted, that the ground of it should be manifest to him, that he may see the justice of it. That there should be some judicial proceeding in which that should take place, seems absolutely necessary, in order to a proper manifestation of the grounds of the subject’s reward or punishment, and a display of the justice of his judge to his own conscience, which must be if the subject be dealt with as a rational moral agent.
Hence it is of necessity, that every one of mankind must be the subject of such a dispensation of God towards him, which may fitly be called an appearing before the judgment-seat of God. And it is most reasonable to suppose, that this judicial proceeding will not be secret; that each individual will not be judged so; that the transaction with respect to him will be out of the sight and knowledge of all others; but that truth and righteousness will be made visibly to take place, after a prevalence of wrong, wickedness, and confusion, in the violations of a divine law, which was public, and the law of their union and regulation in society. Many of those violations are of course visible to others, and are concerned in them, either in being united in the wickedness, and accessory to it, or a party concerned in suffering the injury done by that wickedness.
Reasonable creatures are the eye of the world. They are capable of beholding the beauty and excellency of the Creator’s workmanship, and those displays of himself, which he has made in his works. And therefore it is requisite that the beauty and excellency of the world, as God has constituted it, should not be hid or kept secret. But the beauty of God’s constitution of the world consists mainly without doubt in the intelligent part of the world, which is head and end of all the rest, et instar omnium. But the beauty and order of God’s constitution of this consists chiefly in his moral regulation of it. Now, therefore, since God has made the beauty and regularity of the natural world so publicly visible to all, it is much more requisite that the moral beauty and regularity of his disposals, in the intelligent world, should be publicly visible. For the beauty of God’s works consists a thousand times more in this than in the other. It is reasonable to suppose that these will be as publicly visible as the brightness and beautiful order and motions of the heavenly bodies, and the regular successions of the various seasons of the year, and the beauties of nature in the air and on the face of the earth. The moral deformity and confusion of the world is most public. It stands forth continually in view through all ages. It is therefore fit that the rectifying of this deformity and disorder, and the bringing of light out of darkness should also be made publicly visible to those creatures that are made to be the eye of the creation to behold its beauty and the glory of the Creator in it. God has given man a nature which, if it be under the influence of true virtue, desires above all things to behold this kind of order and beauty. When man sees a great and horrid crime committed, as some nefarious act of injustice, cruelty, etc. the nature of the reasonable creature has something in it, which desires and makes it requisite, that he should see justice done, and right take place, with respect to such an act. The mind or heart, as it were, fails in such a case if it neither sees this nor hopes to see it.
If it be requisite that judgment should be public, and that many should stand together before the judgment-seat, [then] on the same account it will appear most reasonable to suppose that the whole world should appear together in one great assembly before the judgment-seat. The whole world is one commonwealth and kingdom, all made of one blood, all under one moral head, one law, and one government; and all parts of it are joined in communication one with another. All are sinners, and yet God appears placable to all, etc. All dwell in one habitation, viz., this earth, under the same roof of the visible heavens having the same sun to enlighten them, etc. Besides, many of the causes and controversies to be decided by the Supreme Judge of the world, are of the most public mature: as causes between princes, heads of great kingdoms, and monarchies and their people, and causes between one nation and another. Yea, there are many causes which the Supreme Judge must bring to an issue, wherein the greater part of the world is concerned. And when the cause and controversy between these two is judged, it is requisite that both parties should appear together before the judgment-seat. The Roman emperors had to do with other nations that were without the limits of the empire, to the utmost ends of the earth: as with the Scythians, the Persians, the Arabians, the Indians, the Chinese, the Germans, Cimbrians, and Africans. So that it is requisite when they appear to be judged that not only the people of the Roman empire should appear with them, but also those other nations. Thus, all the nations of Europe have dealings one with another continually; and these European nations have some dealings with almost all other nations upon earth, in Asia, Africa, and America.
It is therefore necessary that all nations should be gathered together before the judgment-seat of the Supreme Lawgiver and Judge, that he may determine between them, and settle all things by his wise, righteous, and infallible decision. And many of the good and evil acts that are done, though the world is not properly concerned in them as a party interested, yet are public through the world. They are done in the sight of the world, and greatly draw the attention of mankind. It is fit, therefore, that they should be as publicly judged. And, it is to be observed, that the longer the world stands, the more and more communication have the different parts of it together. So that, at the end of the world, there probably will be the highest reason, in this respect, that all nations that shall then be found upon the earth, should be called together before the judgment-seat of God.
As it is requisite that all who dwell on the face of the earth at the same time, should appear together before the judgment-seat, so it is also requisite that all generations that have succeeded one another, appear together. Many of the moral acts, both good and bad, not only are public in this respect, that they are known over great part of the face of the earth, in or near the time of them, but also they are made public to all following generations, by tradition and history. And it the actions of one generation be not visible to all, yet the actions of one generation are very visible to the generation immediately following, and theirs to the next, and so all, in this sense, are very visible one to another. And as all nations of the world are morally concerned one with another, though not so as each one immediately concerned with every other nation, yet all are mutually concerned by concatenation. — One nation is concerned with the next, and that with the next, and so on: so that there is need that all should appear together to be judged.
All generations of men, from the beginning to the end of the world, are morally concerned with one another. — The first generation is concerned with the next, and that with the next, and so on to the end of the world. Therefore it is requisite that all should appear together to be judged. Parents may injure their children, and children may injure their parents; and so they are two parties in one cause which must be decided by the Supreme Judge. Therefore it is needful, that they, as parties, should appear together, when their cause is judged. Parents and children, or a younger generation and an older, may be accessory to each other’s crimes, or united in each other’s virtuous deeds; and therefore it is requisite that they should be judged together. Yea, the present generation may become necessary to an injury committed by their ancestors ages ago. For, in many things, they stand in the stead of those ancestors, and act for them, and have power to continue the injury, or the remove it.
Posterity is concerned in the actions of their ancestors or predecessors, in families, nations, and most communities of men, as standing in some respect in their stead. And some particular persons may injure, not only may injure and undo all future generations of many individuals, families, or larger communities. So that men who live now, may have an action against those who lived a thousand years ago. Or there may be a cause which needs to be decided by the Judge of the world, between some of the present generation, and some who lived a thousand years ago. Princes who, by rapine and cruelty, ruin nations, are answerable for the poverty, slavery, and misery of the posterity of those nations, so as to those who broach and establish opinions and principles, which tend to the overthrow of virtue and propagation of vice, and are contrary to the common rights and privileges of mankind. — Thus, Mahomet has injured all succeeding posterity, and is answerable, at least in a degree, for the ruin of the virtue of his followers in many respects, and for the rapine, violence, and terrible devastations which his followers have been guilty of toward the nations of the world, and to which they have been instigated by the principles which he taught them. And whoever they were, who first drew away men from the true religion, and introduced and established idolatry, they have injured all nations that have to this day partaken of the infection.
In like manner, persons, by their virtue, may be great benefactors to mankind, through all succeeding generations. Without doubt, the apostle Paul, and others who assisted him, and following generations, may properly become the subjects of a judicial proceeding with respect to that great religious change and revolution in the nations subject to the Roman empire in abolishing heathenish idolatry and setting up Christianity in the room of it.
The end of the divine judgment is the manifestation of the divine justice. And how fit is it that the justice of the universal and supreme Head and Judge of all mankind, in governing his kingdom, should be most publicly manifested, and exhibited to his whole kingdom! This doctrine of the day of judgment, exceedingly becomes the universal moral Head of the world, who rules through all generations.
It is certain that the world of mankind, in its present state in this world, will come to an end: nature, in length of time, will bring it to an end. But it is not to be supposed that the Creator and Governor of the world will let it come to an end, in the gradual way in which nature would bring it to an end. And if an end will be put to the probationary state of the whole world of mankind, that shall then be alive, at once, their judgment of course will be at once. For judgment doubtless immediately follows the state of probation.
When the world shall come to an end, it will probably be exceedingly full of people, and a great part of the whole of the inhabitants will be alive at that time. And as then the world will probably have great intercourse one part with another, vastly beyond what it has now, so it will be peculiarly fit that they should be judged in sight of one another.
If there shall ever come a time wherein the Lawgiver and Judge of the world will publicly regulate the moral state of all generations, the end of the world, when there shall be a final period to all farther probation, seems to be a proper time for it. If ever, by divine wisdom and righteousness, there be brought about a righteous, holy, and glorious issue of the confused state of the world, it will be when this world shall have come to an end. As the proper time for judging a particular person is when the probationary world comes to an end.
There is all reason to think that the wicked will hereafter be punished together, having a place of punishment assigned for them, where they shall suffer divine vengeance in sight of one another, and that the righteous will also be rewarded together. If so, it is most requisite that their judgment should be together, that they might understand the ground and reason of the punishment, and of that reward, which they shall see in each other.
1087. God’s Chosen People. On the supposition that God has not utterly cast off the world of mankind, it is most reasonable to suppose that in the time of the universal corruption of the world by idolatry, which continued for so many ages, God should choose some one people to maintain amongst them the knowledge and the true worship of himself.
1156. Future Rewards and Punishments. It is most agreeable to reason that there is a future state of rewards and punishments, wherein God will reward and make happy good men and make wicked men miserable. And if there be a future state of happiness to God’s favorites, it is rational to suppose, that this should be ETERNAL. Because otherwise, God’s greatest favorites to whom he gives greatest rewards in another world, would, in one respect, have most to torment them: to wit, the dreadful and eternal end of that sweet happiness. The sweeter and more happy life is, the more terrible are death and the thoughts and expectations of it. It is not likely that God would add such a sting to the sweetest enjoyments and rewards of his greatest favorites. It is rational, therefore, to suppose that the life he gives them after death, is life eternal: life that is not to come to an end by another worse death, consisting not only in the destruction of the body, but the abolition of the soul. God has not made them like the brutes, who cannot contemplate futurity, and therefore have no allay to present enjoyment by the prospect of an end by death. And if it be so that there be an eternal state of happiness in another world, set before us to be sought after, then how rational are the Christian doctrines and precepts of placing our affections on heavenly objects, of weanedness from the world, of behaving as pilgrims and strangers on the earth, of not laying up treasure on the earth, but in heaven, of selling all for the kingdom of heaven, of not looking at the things which are seen, which are temporal, but at the things which are not seen, which are eternal! Hence, also, the reasonableness of the Christian precepts of patience under sufferings, seeing these afflictions are but for a moment, in comparison with the duration of the future weight of glory.
Since the doctrine of original sin, and the exceeding depravity and corruption of human nature, is so agreeable to experience, and also men’s obstinancy in sin and folly under all manner of means, these make the doctrine of regeneration, and the sovereign grace of God in it, exceedingly rational. And seeing the extreme stupidity of mankind is so evident, in a senselessness of the amiableness of the divine Being, of the unreasonableness and excellency of virtue, of the reality and importance of future and eternal things, and in their expectations of happiness here, and in the value they set upon the vain things of this world. Hence, how rational is the doctrine of divine illumination, of the teachings of God’s Spirit, opening the blind eyes, turning from darkness to light, taking away the heart of stone, and giving an heart of flesh, etc.
Since reason teaches that a divine revelation is peculiarly necessary to teach us a way of reconciliation with God, after we have offended him by sin, and since this depends on God’s sovereign pleasure (and the strength and clearness of reason do not at all help to the discovery of it), therefore, it is more reasonable to suppose that when a divine revelation is given, it should be very much taken up about this, to wit, about the way of a sinner’s reconciliation to God, the justification of a sinner, and that this should be very much the subject of that Bible, which contains the divine revelation to mankind. Since experience teaches that mankind, in general, is in fallen and exceedingly depraved state. and it is also evident that all mankind are not actually reconciled, but comparatively few. and since reason teaches that there must be a future eternal state of rewards for the good, and that there must be some revelation to ascertain and declare this, that this reward may properly be set before men, as God’s promise and an enforcement of God’s commands, and certain encouragement to the good under the difficulties and sufferings they meet with in the way of virtue — it is also very rational to suppose that God, in this revelation, would appoint that those who are gathered out of this corrupt, polluted world, and being brought to true virtue are reconciled to God, and are interested in the eternal happiness of another world, should be UNITED in one HOLY SOCIETY or CHURCH.
How reasonable is the scripture doctrine of one God, and of the other invisible heavenly beings that are concerned in the affairs of the government of the world! Though these beings be of very great power and exalted dignity, and different degrees and orders, having a diverse superintendency over various parts of God’s creation, and so may be called thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers — yet all those are his ANGELS, his mere servants in perfect dependence on him and subjection to him. How much more rational is this, than the old heathen notions of a multiplicity of gods, or heavenly beings, who were the joint objects of trust, dependence, and divine adoration? It is evident to reason that there is but one eternal, self-existent, independent, infinite Being, and that all other beings are his creatures.It is not reasonable that we should make these inferior beings the objects of adoration, invocation, and praise, for we do not know them, we do not know who they are. If any of them have the special care or charge of us, of our families, cities, or nation, we do not know who they are, nor what care they have of us, what power they have with respect to us, nor how far their knowledge extends. As the supreme Being has made the world, so he has made us. As he is the author of the whole system of the visible universe, so he is the author of us, who are the head and the end of this system, to which the other creatures of this system are subjected, and for which they are evidently made, contrived and ordered. He is the author of the frame of our bodies, and the father of our souls, and the author of their faculties. He is our preserver and governor, and we live, move and have our being in him. Therefore, none of our fellow creatures should share with him, in our adoration, self-dedication, dependence, prayer, and praise.
The doctrine of the gospel concerning an INVISIBLE WORLD, to which good men are to be transferred, and where they are to have their inheritance and fixed abode, is most rational on this account, that this visible world is corruptible in its own nature. Such is the nature and constitution of it, that it must come to an end. And it is unreasonable to suppose that the Creator would leave it gradually to perish, languishing in a decayed, broken, miserable state, through thousands of ages, gradually growing more and more wretched, before it is quite destroyed. Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that there will be a time wherein its Creator will immediately interpose, to put the world to an end, and destroy it suddenly. And at that time, all the living inhabitants of the world, that are not taken from it and translated to some other abode, must perish, and be destroyed in a very awful manner, by the immediate hand of God, with most inexpressible manifestations of his mighty power and great majesty, which will have infinitely more dreadful appearances of divine wrath and fury, than is in the most terrible thunderstorms or earthquakes. And who can believe that at that time, when God, in this manner, immediately interposes, he will make no distinction between the virtuous and his enemies? That this awful destruction and wrath shall come upon all alike? There will be no necessity of it from the course of nature. For at that time, by the supposition, God will put an end to the course of nature. God will immediately and miraculously interpose. The whole affair shall be miraculous, and by God’s immediate hand, and therefore, a miraculous deliverance of the good will not be at all beside God’s manner of operation at this time. He can as easily, and, without departing any more from the stated course of things, miraculously deliver the virtuous, as he can miraculously destroy the wicked.
Therefore we may well suppose, that at that time, when God is about to put an end to the frame of this visible universe, the virtuous will be translated into some other world, beyond the limits of the visible one. And if God designs thus to deal with all the good that shall be found alive on the earth at that time, how rational is it to suppose that he deals in like manner with the good in all generations? That they are all translated into that distant invisible world? Without doubt, the world into which God will receive his favorites, when this corruptible world shall perish, shall be incorruptible. He will not translate them from one corruptible world to another. He will not save them from one world that is to perish, to carry them to another world that is to perish. Therefore, they shall be immortal and have eternal life, and doubtless, that world will be unspeakably better than this, and free from all that destruction, that fleeting, fading, perishing, empty nature, that attends all the things of this world. And their bodies shall be immortal, and as secure from perishing as the world is to which they are translated.
This makes it most reasonable to suppose that good men, in all ages, are translated to that world. For why should so vast a difference be made, between the virtuous that shall be of the last generation, and the virtuous of all preceding generations? Seeing there is a far distant and invisible world provided for some of the virtuous inhabitants of this world, it is reasonable to suppose that all the good shall have their habitation and inheritance together there, as one society, partaking of the same reward: as they were of the same race of mankind, and loved and served God, and followed him in the same state here below, in the performance of the same duties, the same work, and under like trials and difficulties.
It is also, hence, rational to suppose that there should be a RESURRECTION of the bodies of the saints of all past generations. For from what has been observed before, the bodies of the saints of the last generation will be preserved from perishing with the world, and will be translated. And, doubtless, if all the good of all generations are to have a like reward, and are to dwell together in the same world in one society, they shall be in a like state, partaking of a like reward.
Corollary. Hence there must be some notice given of this invisible world of rewards to mankind on earth, and what way is so rational, as by DIVINE REVELATION, or by God’s testimony and promise? And how reasonably is full credit to God’s testimony, and dependence on his promise, required? And so, living by faith, and not by fight, is reasonably required of all the heirs of the inheritance.
It is reasonable to suppose that if God should give to man a revelation, to teach him what virtue is suitable for such a creature as man, in his exceedingly corrupt, broken, miserable state, and what virtue and religion would be acceptable to God, and to teach the way to the happiness of such a creature — I say that it is reasonable to suppose that he should teach a different kind of virtue, consisting in a different sort of frame and exercise of heart, from the virtue which philosophers teach from their own reason.
The reasonableness of the doctrine of the resurrection will appear, if we suppose that union with a body is the most rational state of perfection of the human soul: which may be argued from the consideration that this was the condition in which the human soul was created at first, and that its separation from the body is no improvement of its condition, being an alteration brought on by “sin, and was inflicted under the notion of evil, and expressly as punishment, upon the forfeiture of a privilege. From whence we must conclude that the former state of union to the body was a better state than the disunion which was threatened. Sin introduced that death that consists in the separation of body and soul. The state of innocence was embodied: the state of guilt was disembodied.” [Winder’s History of Knowledge. P. 59, 60.]
Therefore, as Christ came to restore from all the calamities which came from sin, it is most reasonable to suppose that he will restore the union of soul and body.
How reasonable to suppose that the salvation of the Messiah, which was to be a general salvation of mankind, should not be from particular evils or enemies, as the redemption of one particular nation from Egypt or Babylon, but the general enemies and evils of all mankind, and the general foundations and authors of all their evils, as Sin and Satan.
If God intended to be gracious to mankind, who [had] apparently become corrupt and miserable, and if he designed any such thing in a restoration, it is analogous to what is apparently God’s manner in his providence, that he should appoint some PARTICULAR PERSON to be the SAVIOR and the instrument of so great a good. It is evident that it has ever been God’s manner, in other cases, to bestow the greatest public benefits by particular persons. These have been the instruments of deliverance from great public calamities, as from the oppression of enemies, and of raising nations and great communities to great worldly wisdom, honor, and prosperity. Instances from sacred history we have in Noah, Joseph, Moses, the Judges of Israel, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah, Cyrus, Mordecai; and from profane history, Cyrus, Alexander, the Roman conquerors, Czar Peter the Great, the men that were deified among the heathens, and many others. Though true virtue be essentially the same in all, the same in mankind before and after the fall, the same in all intelligent creatures, both men and angels, yet the leading exercise of true virtue may differ, according to the different nature, state, and circumstances of the creature, the different relation it stands in to God, and its different leading concern with its Creator, and the diverse principal means and manner of God’s manifesting himself to the creature, and the different intercourse he maintains with it. And if these things are considered, it will appear reasonable every way, that FAITH should be the leading virtue of fallen man, a subject of the salvations of Jesus Christ, or candidate for it, to whom God principally makes himself known by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Virtue is essentially the same in men and women, in parents and children, yet the leading exercises of relative virtue may differ in these, by reason of difference of nature, state, circumstances, and relation. Thus, considering the weakness and dependence of the wife, and her relation to her husband, as her head, her guide, defense, provider, and husband — those exercises of virtue peculiarly proper for her, and amiable to her in her circumstances, and peculiarly endearing to her husband, are a chaste reservation of herself for him, meek submission, and resignation of herself to him, and alliance to him. On the other hand, the proper leading exercises of virtue in him, and most endearing him to her, are fortitude, generosity, tenderness, compassion, etc. So the leading relative virtues of a child in minority are submission and dependence, but of the father, parental tenderness, watchful care, etc.
And nothing is more plain than that the most proper and suitable leading exercises of every kind, rank, and state of beings is to be determined from the particular nature, state, circumstances, connections and relations, in which they stand with respect to the chief objects of duty. For state and relation bring duty, and are the ground of particular obligations and determinations of virtue. And therefore, according as state and relation are different, so will the determinations of the leading exercises of virtue be different.
Now whatever is considered in the nature and circumstances of fallen man, under the gospel of salvation by the Son of God, everything will show that faith, or cordial belief in the Son of God, and dependence on him, is certainly the most proper leading exercise of virtue for us.
This will appear, if we consider what is most affecting, and most to be attended to in our present fallen circumstances: being sinful, miserable, weak, poor, helpless, unworthy and lost. This will also appear if we consider the leading character and relation under which God now reveals himself to us, thus sinful, miserable, helpless creatures, even that of our Savior. And the grand affair, in regard to which is our chief concern with God, is salvation. And that notion under which chiefly all those benefits, wherein our happiness consists is exhibited, is salvation, and benefits that are spiritual, and chiefly unseen and future. This will also further appear if we consider that the way, manner, and principal means by which God makes himself known to us in our fallen state, and the only means by which he manifests himself to us in the forementioned character and relation, and makes known those mentioned benefits wherein our happiness consists, and directs us in answerable conduct and behavior, is divine revelation or the Word of God.
1160. Solomon’s Writings About A Future State. Besides those texts in the Old Testament that do directly speak of a future state, the Old Testament affords the following evidence and confirmation of a future state, especially Solomon’s writings, and, above all, the book of Ecclesiastes.
It is often declared in the Old Testament that God will bring every work into judgment; that there is verily a God that judges in the earth; that his eyes are on the way of man and he considers all his goings; that the sins of the wicked and the good deeds of the righteous are exactly observed, written in a book of remembrance, and none of them forgotten and they are sealed and laid up among God’s treasures; that he will render to every man according to his works and the Judge of all the earth will do right; that therefore God will not destroy the righteous with the wicked; that as to the righteous, it shall be well with him, for he shall eat the fruit of his doings; that as to the wicked, it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him and that it is impossible it should be otherwise; that there is no darkness nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves from God the Judge; that God cannot forget his people and a woman may sooner forget her sucking child, and God has graven them on the palms of his hands; that God beholds and takes notice of all their afflictions, and pities them, as a father pitieth his children, but he is the enemy of wicked men; that their sins shall find them out, and though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished; and that the way of righteousness is a certain way to happiness, and the way of sin a sure way to misery. Solomon himself is more abundant than all other penmen of the Old Testament, in observing the different between the righteous and the wicked in this respect, the greatness and the certainty of that difference. *12* And, in Ecc. 12:13-14, Solomon declares, “That to fear God and keep his commandments, is the whole duty of man: because God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.” And Ecc. 5:8, “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and the violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter; for he that is higher than the highest regardeth, and there be higher than they.” Ecc. 8:11, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” And therefore, there is some other time, beside the time of this life, for executing the sentence which he observes will so surely be executed. In Pro. 10:7, Solomon says, the memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot. And of this memory or good name of the just, he says, Ecc. 7:1 that “it is better than precious ointment (meaning the precious ointment they were wont to anoint the children of great and rich men with, when first born), and that, upon this account, the day of a godly man’s death (followed with a good name and so blessed a memory) is better than the day of one’s birth.”.
It is an argument that the Scriptures of the Old Testament afford for a future state, that it is so often observed in those sacred writings, as a thing very remarkable, that man should be mortal, that in this respect he should be like the beasts that perish, and like the flowers and the grass of the field, Psa. 49:10-12 and verses 19-20. Why should it be taken notice of as something remarkable that man should be mortal and die as the beasts do, if there be nothing in the nature and circumstances of men, by which he is distinguished from the beasts, that would naturally lead one to expect an answerable distinction in this respect? If it be no more than is to be expected, considering man’s nature, capacity, state in the world, business, the end of his creation, his views and natural desires, I say, if considering these things, there is nothing in man that should lead us to expect that man should be any more immortal than the beasts, or that should make it any more wonderful or remarkable that men should die than that the inferior creatures should die, — then why is such a remark made upon it? And, besides, it is plainly signified that man’s superior nature and circumstances to the beasts, or his being in honor, does require or naturally lead us to expect that man should be distinguished in this respect from the beasts. For that is mentioned as the thing that renders it remarkable, that man should die as the beasts, that he is in honor.
The words of Solomon are very emphatical, Ecc. 3:18-20, “I said in my heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea they have all one breath. So that a man hath no preeminence above the beast; for all is vanity; all go to one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” This would not be spoken with so much emphasis, as a thing very remarkable and difficult to conceive of, if there was nothing in it indeed wonderful, nothing pertaining to the nature which God had given mankind or the state he had set them in, leading one to expect that man should differ from the beasts in this; nothing that should make it appear congruous and fit that God should make man, unless under his remarkable displeasure, to be distinguished from the inferior creatures by immunity from death, and that he should enjoy eternal life. And if it be so, then we may determine that there is great reason to suppose that there is some way that good men shall be delivered from death, and that they shall enjoy eternal life in some invisible world after death. For good men are spoken of abundantly in the Old Testament, as fully in favor with God, having all their sins perfectly done away, as if they had never been, and as being very dear and precious in God’s sight, that God greatly delights in them, and the bestowment of life is abundantly spoken of as the excellent fruit of his distinguishing live and favor. And the durableness of the benefits of his favor is often spoken of as a proper testimony of the greatness of it; their being more durable than the everlasting mountains, yea than heaven and earth; Psa. 102, the latter end; Isa. 51:6; chap. 44:10. And it cannot answer the design of those great declarations of God’s favor, that although particular saints shall die, yet a succession of them shall be continued, and their posterity shall last. For if there be no future state, then they are never the better for what happens to their posterity or successors after their death, as is often observed in the Old Testament, and especially in the book of Ecclesiastes.
If God has perfectly forgiven all the sins of the righteous, and they are so high in his favor, and if the great evidence of this favor be the durableness of the benefits that are the fruits of it, and the chief fruit of it is life, then it is at least to be expected that they will escape that mortality which is such a remarkable disgrace to those that have the human nature, and so wonderful to behold in those whom the Most High has made to differ so much from the beasts in capacity, dignity, end, and design. We might surely expect that these high favorites should, with regard to life and durableness of happiness, not be mere beasts, and have no preeminence above them, and that they should not be like the grass, and the flower of the field, which in the morning flourisheth and groweth up, but in the evening is cut down and withered; that all their happiness and all the benefits of God’s favor should not be like a shadow, like a dream, like a tale that is told; that it should not be as a span, and should not pass away as the swift ships, as the eagle that hasteth to the prey, to which things the life of man is compared in Scripture.
The things of this world are spoken of as having no profit or value, because they are not lasting, but must be left at death, and therefore are mere vanity, and not worthy that any man should set his heart on them; Psa. 49:6, to the end; Pro. 23:4, 5; Pro. 11:7; Ecc. 2:15, 16, 17, Ecc. 3:1-10, 19; chap. 5:14, 15, 16. But the rewards of righteousness are abundantly represented as exceedingly valuable and worthy that men should set their hearts upon them, because they are lasting; Pro. 3:16; 8:18, and Pro. 10:25, 27; Isa. 55:3; Psa. 1:3, to the end; Isa. 17:7, 8; and innumerable other places. How can these things consist one with another, unless there be a future state?
It is spoken of as a remarkable thing, and what one would not expect, that good men should die as wicked men do, as it seems to be, by good men’s dying a temporal death as wicked men do, Ecc. 2:16, chap. 9:3-5. And therefore, it may be argued that it does but seem to be so, but that in reality it shall not be so, inasmuch as though good men die a temporal death as wicked men do, yet as to their happiness, they die not, but live forever in a future state. It is an evidence of a future state that in the Old Testament so many promises are made to the godly, of things that shall be after they are dead, which shall be testimonies of God’s great favor to them, and blessed rewards of his favor. [There are] so many promises concerning their name, their posterity, and the future church of God in the world, and yet we are so much taught in the Old Testament that men are never the better for what comes to pass after they are dead, concerning these things (i.e. if we look only at the present life, without taking any other state of existence into consideration), Job 14:21; Ecc. 1, 2; Ecc. 3:22, and Ecc. 9:5, 6. Yea, the wise man says expressly that the dead have no more reward, Ecc. 9:5, i.e. in anything in this world.
That man shall die as a beast seems to be spoken of (Ecc. 3:16, to the end) as a vanity, an evil, a kind of mischief and confusion, that appears in the world. Therefore this is an argument: that God, the wise orderer of all things, who brings order out of confusion, will rectify this disorder by appointing a future state.
These representations of the Old Testament, wherein the life of man is set forth as being so exceedingly short, as a flower, as a shadow, as a dream, a tale that is told, as a span, a moment, etc. have no propriety at all in them any other way than as man’s life is short, in a comparative view, compared with things pertaining to men, that would naturally lead us to expect that it should be incomparably longer, such as, the dignity of man’s nature above all other creatures, his being made in the image of God, his being of a capacity so much superior, his being made for such an end and business, and capable of such happiness, made capable of looking forward and having some comprehension of an endless life, his necessary desires of such a life, etc. Otherwise, why is not the shortness of the duration of other things in like manner set forth and insisted on, which do not last longer than the life of man? But if it be so indeed, that man’s life is exceedingly short, considering his nature, end, capacity and desires, then doubtless the righteous, who are represented as the high favorites of God, who shall be the subjects of his blessings every way, and particularly shall have life as the great fruit of his favor and blessing, will have a life, or duration, that shall be long, answerably to their natures, desires, etc.
It is an argument that the Old Testament affords for the proof of a future life and immortality, that we are there taught that mortality is brought in by sin, and comes as a punishment of sin. Therefore, it is natural to suppose that when complete forgiveness is promised, and perfect restoration to favor, and deliverance from death, and the bestowment of life, as the fruit of this favor, then eternal life and immortality is intended.
The better men are, the more terrible would it make death, if there were no future state. For the better they are, the more they love God. Good men have found the fountain of good. Those men who have a high degree of love to God, greatly delight in God. They have experience of a much better happiness in life than others, and therefore it must be more dreadful for them to have their beings eternally extinct by death. Hence we may strongly argue a future state: for it is not to be supposed that God would make man such a creature as to be capable of knowing and loving him, and delighting in him as the fountain of all good, which will necessarily increase in him a dread of annihilation and an eager desire of immortality, and yet so order it that such desire should be disappointed, so that his loving his Creator should in some sense make him the more miserable.
1167. Divine Judgment. That the state of divine judgment and retribution is hereafter in another life, and not in this, is manifest from this: that some of the highest acts of virtue consist in dying well, in denying ourselves of life in a good cause for God and a good conscious (rather than commit what is in itself vicious and vile), for our country, for the church of God, and the interest of that holy society.
1258. Relinquishing This World for A Future State. Nothing is more manifest than that it is absolutely necessary, in order to a man’s being thoroughly, universally, and steadfastly virtuous, that his mind and heart should be thoroughly weaned from this world, which is a great evidence that God intends another world for virtuous men. He surely would not require them, in their thoughts, affections, and expectations, wholly to relinquish this world, if it were all the world they were to expect: if he had made them for this world wholly and only, and had created the world for them, to be their only country and home, and all the resting-place ever designed for them.
1290. Divine Revelation. It strongly argues that when God gave the Old Testament, he intended some further and far more glorious revelation of his mind and will, that in the Old Testament, are so many hints of another world and a future, eternal state of rewards and punishment, and yet that these things are nowhere spoken more plainly and insisted upon more fully, particularly and didactically. For if there be such a state, doubtless the things of it are infinitely greater than the things of the present state. The things that concern it are infinitely more important than the things of this world. The things of that future eternal state must be the grand things of all, to which the religious concerns of this life must all be subordinate, and in comparison with which temporal things are nothing.
This argues that a then future far more plain and clear revelation of the chief things of religion and of the greatest concern between God and man was in reserve.
26. Millenium. How happy will that state be when neither divine nor human learning shall be confined and imprisoned within only two or three nations of Europe, but shall be diffused all over the world, and this lower world shall be all over covered with light, the various parts of it mutually lighting each other; when the most barbarous nations shall become as bright and polite as England, when ignorant heathen lands shall be packed with most-profound divines and most-learned philosophers; when we shall, from time to time, have the most-excellent books and wonderful performances brought from one end of the world and another to surprise us — sometimes new and wondrous discoveries from rara Australis incognita, admirable books of devotion, the most divine and angelic strains from among the Hottentots, and the press shall groan in wild Tartary; when we shall have the great advantage of the sentiments of men of the most-distant nations, different circumstances, customs, and tempers; when learning shall not be restricted to particular humans of a nation, or their singular way of making things; when the distant extremes of the world shall shake hands together and all nations shall be acquainted, and they shall all join the facets of their minds in exploring the glories of the Creator, their hearts in loving and adoring him, their hands in serving him, and their voices in making the welkin ring with his praise! What infinite advantages will they have for discourse of every kind! To what they know now, there will continually be something new and surprising discovered in one part of the world and another. The vast number of explorers, their different circumstances, their different paths to come at the truth — how many instructive and enlightening remains of antiquity will be discovered here and there now buried amongst ignorant nations!
262. Millenium. It is probable that the world shall be more like heaven in the millenium in this respect: that contemplation and spiritual employments, and those things that more directly concern the mind and religion, will be more the saint’s ordinary business than now. There will be so many contrivances and inventions to facilitate and expedite their necessary secular business that they shall have more time for more noble exercise, and that they will have better contrivances for assisting one another through the whole earth by more expedite, easy, and safe communication between distant regions than now. The invention of the mariner’s compass is a thing discovered by God to the world to that end. And how exceedingly has that one thing enlarged and facilitated communication. And who can doubt but that yet God will make it more perfect, so that there need not be such a tedious voyage in order to hear from the other hemisphere? And so the country about the poles need no longer be hid to us, but the whole earth may be as one community, one body in Christ.
WORLD WILL COME TO AN END
552. End of the World. The doctrine of the general resurrection at the end of the world, upon many accounts, seems to me a most credible doctrine. There are a multitude of resemblances of it in nature and providence, which, I doubt not, were designed to be types of it. It seems credible on this account, that the work of the Redeemer is wholly a restoring work from beginning to end. It seems rational to think that he would therefore be thorough in it, would make a thorough restoration, and repair all the ruins brought on the world by sin. It is the glory of the restorer that he appears as an all-sufficient and complete restorer.
867. The World Will Come to an End. Immortality of the Soul. A Future State. The natural world, which is in such continual labor, as is described in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes (Ecc. 1), constantly going round in such revolutions, will doubtless come to an end. These revolutions are not for nothing. There is some great event and issue of things that this labor is for, some grand period aimed at. Does God make the world restless, to move and revolve in all its parts, to make no progress, to labor with motions so mighty and vast, only to come to the same place again, to be just where it was before? Doubtless some end is nearer approached to by these revolutions. Some great end is nearer to an accomplishment after a thousand revolutions are finished than when there was only one finished or before the first revolution began. The sun does not go round day after day and year after year for no other end but only to come to the same place again from whence it first set out, and to bring the world to the same state again that it was in before. The waters of the sea are not so restless, continually, to ascend into the heavens, and then descend on the earth, and then return to the sea again, only that things may be as they were before. One generation of men does not come, another go, and so continually from age to age, only that at last there may be what there was at first, viz., mankind upon earth. The wheels of God’s chariot, after they have gone round a thousand times, do not remain just in the same place that they were in at first, without having carried the chariot nearer to a journey’s end. We see it is not so in the lesser parts of the creation that are systems by themselves, as the world is a great system, and where the revolutions very much resemble those in the great system, as in the body of men and other animals. The reciprocation of the heart and lungs, and the circulation of the blood, and the continual circular labors of all parts of the system are not to last always. They tend to a journey’s end. See M 990 and M 547.
Corollary 1. This is a confirmation of a future state, for if these revolutions have not something in another state that is to succeed this that they are subservient to, then they are in vain. If anything of this world is to remain after the revolutions of this world are at an end, doubtless it will be that part of this world that is the end of all the rest, or that creature for which all the rest is made. And that is man. For if he wholly ceases, and is extinct, it is as if the whole were totally extinct, because he is the end of all. He is that creature to serve whom the labors and revolutions of this world are, and whom they affect. And therefore, if he does not remain after the revolutions have ceased, then no end is obtained by all those revolutions. Because nothing abides as the fruit of them after they are finished but all comes to no more than just what was before any of those revolutions, or before this world itself began, viz., an universal nonexistence. All is extinct, and all is as if the world never had been, and therefore all has been in vain. For nothing remains as the fruit. He that is carried in the chariot does not remain after he is brought, with so much labor and vast ado, to the end of his journey, but ceases to be, as the chariot itself does.
Corollary 2. This confirms the divinity of the Christian revelation, which gives this account of things: that this world is to come to an end. It is to be destroyed, that the revolutions of the world have an appointed period, and that man, the end of this lower world, is to remain in being afterwards, and gives a most rational account of the good period, design, and issue of all things worthy of the infinite wisdom and majesty of God.
900. The Scriptures. The Conflagration. That book which gives us a particular account of the world’s being overthrown by a flood of water (which great event is so evident from so many things in the present state of the earth and so confirmed by many scraps of history and tradition in the heathen world), that also gives a very particular account of the preservation of some of mankind through the flood, the re-peopling of the world since and the origins of the nations, how the nations were spread abroad, and who the great heads and first founders of nations were (the truth of which is abundantly confirmed by heathen histories, traditions, fables, names and monuments, etc.); that book which gives a rational account of creation, how mankind became so corrupt as we see they are, and gives a history of mankind from the beginning. that book that describes a most exact prophecy of the state of the world in its greatest empires, events, and monarchies, as Daniel’s prophecies. that book that foretold the vast religious revolutions that has been brought to pass in the world (the overthrow of idolatry and bringing the chief part of the world to worshipping one God) which gives an account and reason for that great and universal custom of sacrificingThis book is most likely to give us a right account of the recovery and restoration of mankind to the favor of God after the commission of sin. It is also most likely to give us a right account of the end of the world, viz., that it shall perish by fire. Philosophy would give us great reason to suppose so if the Scriptures had said nothing about it. Philosophy tells us that the motions of the several parts of the visible world must, in a great length of time, gradually cease, and that if they cease, the several parts will all run together into a common heap. But if they do, the world must necessarily be involved in a great conflagration. For I suppose that ninety-nine part in an hundred of the visible world are the most fierce liquid fire.
903. End of the World. One main prejudice against the reality of what the Scripture foretells concerning the resurrection, that day of judgment, and the conflagration is that it is beside what has been the settled course of things for a great while. But there is no force in this. For the same reason, the people of the old world would not believe that there would be an universal deluge, of which however there are all manner of evidences. If the Greeks and Romans before Christ had been told of the great revolution effected by the overthrow of their whole religious state and setting up one so different, they would not have believed it. If any, ten years ago, had foretold such a change in the religious state in New England as has lately take place [about 1742] (it is so extraordinary, so much beside the settled course of things within memory of all living, and in many things so diverse from all that was ever heard of), it would have been perhaps as difficult to believe it as to believe the great events foretold to accompany the end of the world.
990. That the World Will Come to an End. As it is with the body of man — its meat and its clothing perishes and is continually renewed, and at last the body itself perishes. The food that is taken down quickly perishes and is cast forth to the dunghill, and there is a constant succession of new food, and its garments are worn out and new garments are put on, one after another. At last the body itself, that is thus fed and clothed, wears out — so there is all reason to think it will be with the world, it that needs nourishment. The face of the earth continually needs a new supply of rain, and also of nitrous parts by the snow and frost or by other means gradually drawn in from the atmosphere that it is encompassed with, and of nourishment by falling leaves or rotting plants or otherwise to feed it. The sea is constantly fed by rain and rivers to maintain it. The earth, in all parts, has constant new supplies of water to maintain its fountains and streams that are, as it were, its arteries and veins. The sun itself, that nourishes the whole planetary system, is nourished by comets *13* by new supplies from time to time communicated from them. And so the world is continually changing its garments, as it were. The face of the earth is annually clothed, as it were, with new garments, and is stripped naked in the winter. The successive generations of inhabitants and successive kingdoms and empires and new states of things in the world are, as it were, new garments, and as these wear out, one after another, so there is reason to think the world itself, whose meat and clothing thus perishes, will itself perish at last. The body of man often lies down and sleeps and rises up again, but at last will lie down and rise no more. So the world every year, as it were, perishes in the winter or sinks into an image of death, as sleep is in the body of man, but it is renewed again in the spring. But at last it will perish and rise no more.
1038. Comets. End of the World. Those kind of heavenly bodies called comets give great evidence that the world is not from eternity and will come to an end, and that this is true not only of this globe of the earth but also of the whole visible creation, for: 1. Those celestial bodies are very considerable parts of the frame of the universe. They are large bodies, and there is a great number of them, much greater than of planets, and they have ever appeared from age to age, as far as any history reaches back. It would, therefore, be unreasonable to suppose any other than that they are coeval with the frame of the universe. But these bodies cannot have been from eternity; for nothing is more manifest than that they are constantly spending themselves, sending forth, in vast and continual streams, parts of themselves clear off from their own bodies, and at most places to a vast distance into the immense etherial expanse. And there is nothing appears of any continual reflux or constant stream of matter to them to answer it. Yea, it is very manifest there is no such thing — these bodies moving nowhere but to and fro in the empty etherial spaces where are no bodies with which they have communication to repay their expenses and restore their loss. Therefore, it must be that they suffer a constant diminution, and therefore cannot have been from eternity, and will in length of time, if the frame of the universe continue long enough, be totally spent. And it being so, it is so manifest that a very considerable part of the frame of the universe that has hitherto stood through all past ages will come to an end. It is a great argument that the whole is to be dissolved.
2. What must be naturally, and almost necessarily, supposed to be the use of those bodies argues that the whole universe is corruptible and must come to an end. For seeing they are constantly expending and wasting themselves, and sending forth their own substance, and that substance that they emit is not annihilated, it must necessarily be that other parts of the frame of the universe must receive what they expend. And since the etherial spaces are not replete with what they emit but still remain empty spaces, and since also there is no part of these spaces but where the attraction of the heavenly bodies reaches, as the sun and planets, it must necessarily follow that this matter gradually gathers to them. And since the attraction of the sun through all parts of these etherial spaces, excepting what is very near the bodies of the planets, is vastly greater than of all other bodies, it will follow that most of this matter is drawn to the sun. Hence we may argue that the use of it is continually to repair the sun’s expense by its constant immense profusion of beams of light. Whence we may suppose that when those comets are all spent and wasted, as they cannot last always, the sun will want this nourishment and, having no new supplies, must be gradually spent and so the solar system be destroyed. The same may doubtless be said of the fixed stars, those bodies shining by their own light. Their expense of beams must gradually destroy them as necessarily as the sun, and hence all must in time come to an end. See further, M 1041.
1041. Comets. End of the World. Add this to M 1038. The world is not from eternity and will come to an end.
3. What now appears in the motions of these comets is an evidence that the world is not from eternity. For these bodies, some of them at least, are so long in performing their revolutions, and have their course through the system of the planets and athwart their courses, whereby they are in the way of having their motions disturbed by their attractions, and come so very near the sun in some part of their orbit, and are at so vast a distance from it in other parts, at which time they are more within the reach of the attraction of other fixed stars, and so little a variation of their motions being sufficient to destroy them by causing them to strike the body of the sun, as particularly that noted comet that appeared anno 1680 — I say, considering all these things, it is impossible that in a course of nature their motions should be continued from eternity, an infinitely less than an eternal duration being sufficient quite to destroy their motions that are so in the way of disturbance. Indeed, the disturbance of their motions may be such as to bring their orbits nearer to circles, and to cause them to keep at a greater distance from the sun, as well as to make the ellipses in which they move narrower, so as to bring them nearer to the sun, and at length to strike its body. But in either, we must suppose a gradual variation which cannot fail at length of coming to a destruction of their motions, unless we suppose an infinitely exact adjustment of accidents that disturb their motion, so as exactly to rectify at one time what is disordered at another, and so maintain the revolution throughout eternity — which supposition would equally militate against the scheme of those that hold the eternity of the world, and so its independence on a Creator.
And as their motion must needs be something disturbed by the planets, so the motion of the planets must mutually be disturbed by them, and so the whole system must gradually be destroyed. The motion of the comets must be something disturbed and retarded by the stream of the sun’s beams which they pass through; for as these beams are corporeal, and the motion of the comets being athwart the course of the stream of rays, they must be retarded by them, nothing the less for the swift motion of those rays. It is all one whether those particles of matter are at rest or in motion, as to impeding the motions of the comets, provided that motion be neither their motion nor against it but at right angles with it — as the motion of comets, take one time with another, is. However subtle the matter of the sun beams is, yet the quantity of matter is something, especially very near the sun’s body where some of the comets come.
4. Without the exact care of a wise Creator and disposer, these comets must needs have had their motion destroyed, and have destroyed the motions of some of the planets by clashing with them, or by coming from time to time very near to them. There being so great a number of them, and their motion being every way, in all manner of directions through the expanse of the heavens, some of them athwart or very near the course of some of the planets and the course of other comets, as particularly it has been observed that the course of that comet that appeared in the year 1680 was very near the orbit of the earth — therefore it could not but have come to pass before now that they should have clashed or crossed one another so often as to have destroyed the motion one of another, so that at least the regular and almost equable and circular motion of the earth, on which its welfare depends, should long ago have been destroyed.
If anyone says that perhaps there was once a vastly greater number of planets and comets, and all whose directions and courses were such as to cross one another have clashed long ago, and have destroyed each other, and fallen down into the sun, and none are now left but such as can move freely without mutual disturbance — to this I answer two things:
1. This is not true in fact, as has been observed of the courses of the earth and the comet that appeared in 1680 that still remain across one another, or coming very near one to another.
2. If this supposition should be allowed, it would not help the matter. If that ever was the case, that there was a vastly greater number of planets and comets, many of which crossed one another in their motions and in process of time crashed and destroyed one another, if this ever was, it was at some certain season. And if it was at a certain season, it was a certain number of years or ages ago. And if so, then it was infinitely later than from eternity, and so the same difficulty returns, viz., why didn’t these heavenly bodies clash sooner, when they had been in motion an eternity before that? How came it to pass they maintained their motions without destroying one another through an infinite duration?
1292. The Vanishing of This World. If all the creatures God has made are to come to an end, and the world itself is to come to an end, and so to be as though it had never been, then it will be with all God’s glorious and magnificent works, agreeably to what is said of the temporal prosperity of the wicked, Job 20:6-8, “Though its excellency be never so great, yet it shall perish for ever; it shall all fly away as a dream; it shall be chased away as a vision of the night.” It shall vanish totally and absolutely be as though it had not been.
Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:
Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.
Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.