Thy Kingdom ComeA Practical Exposition of the Lord's Prayer by Thomas Manton (1620-1677) (Volume 1)
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Thy kingdom come…
The first petition concerneth the end, the rest the means. Now, among all the means, none hath such a near and immediate respect to the glory of God as Christ’s kingdom; for here there is more of God discovered, more of his infinite grace, justice, wisdom, and power than possibly can be elsewhere. All other things are for the church, and the church for Christ as head and king, and Christ for God, 1 Cor. iii: 22, 23. So that Christ’s kingdom is the primary means of advancing God’s glory; and therefore among all the means it must be sought in the first place. Mat. vi. 33, ‘ Seek first the kingdom of God.’ First, not above the glory of God, it doth not come in competition with that, but above all other things whatsoever, before pardon and grace.
In the words observe three things:
I. We grant a kingdom.
II. By way of distinction and appropriation we say, thy kingdom.
III. By way of supplication, we beg of God that it may come.
The concession, the distinction, the supplication are the three things to be opened.
I. First, The concession of a kingdom, which our heavenly Father hath. A kingdom in the general signifieth the government of a people under one head or governor; and therefore the term may be fitly applied to God, who alone is supreme, and we are all under his dominion.
Now, God’s kingdom is twofold:-
2. More particular and special.
First, There is a universal kingdom over all things; over angels and devils; over men elect and reprobate; over beasts and living creatures; and over inanimate things, sun, moon, and stars. This is spoken of: 1 Chron. xxix 11, ‘ Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou are exalted as head above all.’ And again: Ps. ciii. 19, ‘The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.’ There is no such monarch as God is, for largeness of empire, for absoluteness of power, and sublimity of his throne. This is not principally understood here, but is implied as a foundation and ground of faith, whereupon we may deal with God about that kingdom, which is specially intended in this request.
Secondly, More particularly and especially, God hath a kingdom over a certain order and estate of men. Of this especial kingdom there are two notable branches and considerations. One is that administration which belongeth to the present life, and is called ‘ the kingdom of grace; ‘ and the other belongeth to the life to come, and is called ‘ the kingdom of glory.’
1. The kingdom of grace is spoken of in many places, specially that: Luke xvii. 20, 21, ‘When he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.’ Or ‘among you’. He speaks of a kingdom of God that was already come among them in the dispensation of his grace by Christ. And, then, the other belongeth to the life to come, called the kingdom of glory: Mat. xxv. 34, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; ‘ 1 Cor xv. 50, ‘ Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’
Now, the kingdom of grace may be considered two ways,-as externally administered, and as internally received.
[1.] As externally administered in the ordinances and means of grace, as the word and seals, and censures, and the like. In this sense it is said: Mat. xxi. 43, ‘The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.’ The gospel or means of grace administered in the visible face of the church, they are called God’s kingdom upon earth, and a very great privilege they are when they are bestowed upon any people. Surely, when Christ saith, ‘ The kingdom of God shall be taken from you,’ he doth not mean it of the inward kingdom that they had not, that cannot be lost, but of the outward and external means.
[2.] As internally received; and then by it is meant the grace of God, which rules in the hearts of the elect, and causeth their souls to submit and subject themselves unto the obedience of Christ, and unto his sceptre, and to his word and Spirit, that this is that kingdom properly which is within us. This ‘the kingdom of God which consisteth in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,’ Rom. xiv. 17. And this differeth from the kingdom of glory, not so much in nature as in degree.
Well, then, that by the kingdom of God is here meant, not his general empire over all the world, and all the things of the world, though that be not wholly excluded, but his special kingdom, which he doth administer by Christ: and that either as externally managed by ordinances and visible means of grace, or as internally received and administered in the hearts of the elect. This is that kingdom we beg that it may flourish and get ground more and more.
2. Then for the kingdom of glory, it is either begun and inchoate, or else consummate and perfect.
[1.] It is begun and inchoate upon our translation to heaven in the very moment of death, in which Christ reigns in the other world in the spirits of just men made perfect – that is, being perfectly freed from sin, and admitted into the clear and immediate vision and fruition of God, though our bodies abide in the grave, expecting full redemption and deliverance. That there is such a kingdom carried on many scriptures intimate: Phil. i. 23, ‘ I desire to depart, and to be with Christ.’ As soon as the saints are loosed from the body, they are with Christ under his government: Luke xxiii. 43. ‘This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.’ As soon as Christ died he was in paradise, and there was the good thief with him. The scriptures do not establish any such drowsy conceit as the sleep of souls, or such an estate wherein they do not enjoy God. We read of ‘ the spirits of just men made perfect,’ which make up the congregation which is above, of which Christ is head: Heb. xii. 23. As the spirits of the wicked are in prison, 1 Pet. iii. 19, that is, in hell This is the kingdom of glory begun.
[2.] There is a kingdom of glory consummate, when sin and death is utterly abolished, and the elect perfectly separated from the reprobate, and conducted into heaven, and there remain with the Lord for ever. This is a kingdom:
Mat. xxv. 34, ‘ Come, ye blessed of my Father. inherit the kingdom prepared for you.’ The full and final estate we enjoy after the general judgment and resurrection, that is called a kingdom. Well, now, you see what is meant by the kingdom we pray for.
II-. Secondly, Here is a note of distinction, thy kingdom, by which the kingdom here spoken of is limited by particular reference to God, not only to difference it from the kingdoms of men, which are subordinate to it, but those adverse kingdoms which are set up against God; as the kingdom of sin, Satan, antichrist, the destruction of which we intend when we pray for the advancement of God’s kingdom, as I shall show you.
III. Thirdly, Here is the supplication or the request which we make to God about this kingdom, (eltheto) let it come. What do we mean by that? This word must be applied to the several acceptations of Christ’s kingdom.
1. If you apply it to the external kingdom of grace, then when we say, Thy kingdom come, the meaning is, let the gospel be published let churches be set up everywhere, let them be continued and maintained against all the malignity of the world, and opposition of the devil: and in the publication of the gospel, where the sound of it hath not been heard, that God would come there in the power of his Spirit, and draw people into communion with himself: Mat. xii. 28, ‘If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you,’ -meaning in the public tenders thereof. Saith he, if this miracle doth clearly, as it doth in your consciences, evidence my mission, then you may know the kingdom of God is come -that is, that there is a publication of the gospel of grace. Then we pray for the continuance of this privilege, notwithstanding opposition, that Christ may stand his ground. This is that we seek of God, that he may maintain his interest among the nations of the world, that the gates of hell may not prevail against his kingdom.
2. If you refer to the internal part of this kingdoms then we beg the beginning, the progress and the final consummation of it. First, The beginning or the erection of a throne for Christ in our hearts, and the hearts of others, that he may fully exercise regal power. Secondly, The increase of this kingdom by holiness and obedience, and sincere subjection to him; for the kingdom of grace is so come already, that it will still be coming yet more and more. So long as we need to pray, so long shall we have cause to say, ‘Thy kingdom come.’ Thirdly, The consummation of it, when the fulness of glory in the second coming of Christ shall be revealed; when our head shall be glorious, and his day shall come, (eimera kuriou). For the present it is man’s day, so the scripture seems to call it; but then it is the day of the Lord, when all the devils shall stoop, and enemies receive their final doom, and the saints shall have the crown of glory put upon their heads in the sight of all the world.
Well, the sum of all is this, that though this petition do mainly concern the special kingdom, which God administereth by Christ, yet God’s universal kingdom, the kingdom of his power and providence, is a mighty support and prop to our faith in making this request to God. When we consider what an unlimited power God hath over all creatures even devils themselves, to dispose of them for his own glory, and his church’s good; we need not be discouraged though Christ’s kingdom be opposed in the world, but should with the more confidence deal with God about it.
That which I shall handle upon this petition will fall under these two points:-
1. That God hath a kingdom, which he will administer and manage for his own glory.
2. All those which are well affected to God’s glory should desire the coming of this kingdom, and seriously deal with God about it.
For the first, namely-
Doct. 1. That God hath a kingdom, which he will administer and manage for his own glory.
I speak not of the kingdom of his power and providence, but of the dispensation of grace by Christ. The evangelical gospel state is compared to a kingdom; as, Mat. iii. 2, ‘ The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ So to the disciples, Mat. x. 7, ‘ And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand’. And so Christ himself.
It may be called so with very good reason, for in this kingdom there is a monarch, Jesus Christ, to whom all power and authority is given. God the Father calls him ‘my king’ Ps. ii. 6, ‘ I have set my king upon my holy hill.’ And this king hath his throne in the consciences of men, where thoughts are brought into captivity to him: 2 Cor. x. 5. And he hath his royal sceptre, Ps. cx. 3, which is called ‘ the rod of his strength.’ And he hath his subjects, and they are the saints: Rev. xv. 3, ‘ king of saints.’ And he hath his laws and constitutions; we read of ‘ the law of faith,’ and ‘ the law of liberty.’ And in this kingdom there are privileges, and royal immunities; there is freedom from the curse of the law, and from the power of sin, and from the destructive influence of Satan and the world. And here are punishments and rewards both for body and soul; there is hell and heaven. Now, because all these things do so fitly suit, therefore is the gospel called a kingdom. It will not be amiss to insist upon some of these.
1. The state of the gospel, or evangelical state, it is God’s kingdom, in regard of the monarch whom God hath set up, that is, Jesus Christ, the great Lord of all things. There is no king like him: God hath made him ‘ higher than the kings of the earth,’ Ps. lxxxix. 27. How doth he exceed all other monarchs and potentates in the world? Partly for largeness of command and territory. All kings and monarchs have certain bounds and limits by which their empire is terminated; but Christ is the true catholic king, his government runs throughout the whole circuit of nature and providence; he hath power over all flesh, John xvii. 2, yea, devils themselves are to stoop to him: Phil. ii. 10, every thing under the earth is to bow the knee to Christ. Partly for the excellency of his throne. This king hath a double throne, one in heaven, the other in the heart of a humble sinner, which is his second heaven: Isa lvii. 15. And in both these respects there is no monarch like Christ. ‘ He hath prepared his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over all,’ Ps. ciii. 19. Earthly kings, that their majesty may appear to their subjects, have their thrones usually exalted; there were six steps to Solomon’s throne; a description of it you have in 1 Kings x. 18, 19. But what is this to the throne of Christ, which God hath fixed above in the heavens? The whole globe of sea and earth is but as one point, and there are ten thousand times ten thousands of angels about his throne. The supporters of this throne are justice and mercy. And in regard of his other throne also in the hearts of men: the power of outward potentates reacheth but to the bodies of men, they can take cognisance of nothing but of external conformity to their laws: but Christ gives laws to the thoughts: 2 Cor. x. 5. So for his royal furniture: other princes, they have their chariots. and coaches, and horses, but ‘ he makes the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind,’ Ps. civ. 3. Riding up and down in the world, dispensing mercies and judgments. So for troops and armies to support his dignity, all the hosts of heaven are obedient to him; one angel in one night destroyed in Sennacherib’s army an hundred fourscore and five thousand. Hostility against him must needs be deadly. He is above in heaven, and can rain down fire and brimstone upon us, and cannot be resisted. He is higher than the kings of the earth too, because none hath so good a right and title to rule as this king hath, whom God hath set upon his holy hill of Zion. God’s dominion over the creatures is founded in creation. Other kings find their subjects; he makes them. He hath the first and chief right, there is nothing we have but he made. We depend upon him every moment for his providential assistance, therefore he hath the highest right and title. No creature can be sui juris, at his own dispose. And he hath a right by conquest and by purchase; he hath bought us, and ‘given his life a ransom for many,’ Matt. 20. 28. Christ is opposed there to worldly potentates; they must be served, but he came to minister. Subjects, their blood and lives must go to preserve the rights of the prince; but he gave his life. And he hath a right too by contract and covenant. All that are subjects of his kingdom have sworn allegiance. He hath such an absolute right that thou canst call nothing thy own. We think, indeed, our lips are our own, Ps. xii. 4: and our estates our own; as Nabal, 1 Sam. xxv. 11, ‘ Shall I take my bread, and my water, and my flesh?’ All you have it belongeth to this king by right of creation and providence. Therefore in all these respects he is higher than the kings of the earth.
2. The gospel state is set forth as a kingdom, in regard of the subjects and their privileges. The gospel doth not only reveal a king, but maketh all kings: ‘ He hath made us to be kings and priests,’ &c., Rev. i. 5. All those that submit to him. So that, indeed, Christ may properlv be styled Rex regum, King of kings. As the king of Assyria made his boast, Isa. x. 8, ‘ Are not my princes altogether kings?’ A vaunting speech of his, that his princes and favourites were for power and authority, as good as kings. But Christ may say so. Are not my subjects altogether kings? Not only kings in regard of their spiritual power and command they have over themselves, ruling their own spirits in the fear of God, while others are slaves to their base affections; but in point of their privileges. They have kingly privileges, they are made kings; they are royally attended by angels, they are sent forth to be as guardians to the heirs of promise: Heb. i. 14. They have royal immunities, from the curse of the law, from the damnable influence of sin; they may as well pluck Christ from the throne, as pluck the elect out of that state wherein they are. As David said, ‘ Is it a small thing to be the king’s son-in-law? so, is it a small thing to be the sons of God, co-heirs with Christ? This honour and glory doth God put upon his saints. And there is the greatest pleasure and contentment in this state; for this kingdom, which all the saints are interested in, it consisteth in ‘righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost:’ Rom. xiv. 17. And surely these consolations of God should not be small to us. It is a state of most absolute freedom and sovereignty: John viii. 36, ‘ If the Son shall make you free, then shall ye be free indeed.’ Many a monarch which ruleth over men may be a captive to his own lusts; but these are free. There are the richest revenues and increase which belong to Christ’s subiects. ‘ All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos,’ &c. 1 Cor.iii.21.. They are ours by covenant, and when they come into our possession, by the fair allowance of God’s providence, we have them with a blessing, and may use them with a great deal of comfort.
3. In regard of the laws and manner of administration. I shall not speak of the external political government of the church, which questionless is monarchical, I mean in regard of Christ the Head; though it be aristocratical in regard of officers, and, in some respect, democratical, with reference to the consent of the people in all church acts. But there are laws and sanctions by which this body of men and this kingdom is governed: James ii. 8, ‘ If ye fulfil the royal law.’ It is called the royal law, not only as it requires noble work, but in regard of the dignity of the author, and firmness of the obligation. All the precepts of faith, repentance, and gospel-walking, are as so many royal edicts, which Christ hath set forth to signify his pleasure to his people. How slightly soever we think of these gospel injunctions, they are the laws and instructions of the great king.
4. In regard of punishments and rewards. Christ, who is a king by nature, might rule us with a rod of iron; yet he is pleased to govern us as a father and prince, that he might cast the bands of a man upon us. Christ, as a king, punisheth, and, as a king, rewardeth: Prov. xvi. 14. The wrath of a king is as messengers of death. When a king is angry it is as if a messenger should come and tell us we must die. How great is the wrath of the king of kings! He cannot endure to be slighted in his regal power: Luke xix. 27, ‘ But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me.’ Christ himself will see execution done, in his own sight and presence, upon those rebels that will not submit to his rule and government. How should the hearts of wicked men tremble, which have violated the laws of Christ, and affronted his authority, when they consider how odious this is, how certainly Christ will see execution done upon them! When Adonijah and his guests heard of Solomon sitting upon his throne, and the shouts and acclamations of joy and applause, they were stricken with fear, and fled every one several ways: 1 Kings i. 49. You that cherish your lusts, which stand out against the sovereignty of Christ, that will not let him rule over you, whose hearts say (though their tongues dare not), ‘ we will not have this man to reign over us;’ you that seem to put him by his kingdom, he is furnished with absolute and irresistible power to destroy you, and will one day come and say, Bring forth these drunkards, worldlings, voluptuous, that would not I should reign over them; those that durst venture upon known sin against the checks of their own conscience: how will their hearts tremble in the last day at the shouts and acclamations of the saints, when they shall welcome this great king, when he shall come forth in all his royalty and sovereignty! And as for punishment Christ will show himself as a king, so for rewards. Kings do not give trifles. Araunah ‘gave like a king to a king:’ 2 Sam. xxiv. 23. He was of the blood-royal of the Jebusites, and he gave worthy of his extraction. And so Christ will give like a king. God propounds nothing that was cheap and unworthy, but he ‘ gives you a kingdom:’ Luke xii. 32. The poor of this world are ‘ heirs of a kingdom,’ the fairest kingdom that ever was, or ever will be; as poor and as despicable as now they are, yet they shall have a kingdom. What can you wish for and desire more than a kingdom? All shall reign with Christ for evermore; which shouts the folly of carnal men that will hazard so great and so blessed hopes. Thus I have shown you why the gospel state is compared to a kingdom.
Now, let me tell you it is a spiritual kingdom, not such as comes with observation. Jesus Christ, when he was inaugurated into the throne, when he was to sit down at God’s right hand, how doth he manifest it? He gives gifts, as princes use to do at their coronation, but they are spiritual gifts: Eph. iv. 8. And he sent abroad ambassadors, poor fishermen, they and their successors, to go and treat with the world: 2 Cor. v. 19. Indeed, they had a mighty power with them, as becoming such a great king, as was under the vail of meanness and weakness; it was carried on in a spiritual manner And still he doth administer his kingdom, not by force; he rules not by the power of the sword, but by his word and Spirit, so he governeth his people. The publication of the gospel is a ‘sending forth the rod of his strength:’ Ps. cx. 2. And the Holy Ghost, as Christ’s viceroy, he governeth them, and administereth all things that are necessary to his kingdom; he doth it by the Holy Ghost, as his deputy. The Father chooseth a sort of men, gives them to Christ; the Son dieth for them, that they may be subjects of his kingdom, and he commits them to be governed and ruled by the Holy Ghost: he useth the ministry of men, and so unites them to Christ; and Christ brings them to the Father by his intercession, committing them to his care and love; and by a final tradition at last, which is the last act of Christ’s mediatorial kingdom, 1 Cor. xv. 24, he shall deliver them up to the Father. The Spirit blessing the ministry of men, works faith, by which we are untied to Christ; and Christ intercedes for us, and will bring us to God again. And in this spiritual manner is this kingdom carried on. So that if we would enter into this kingdoms we must go to God the Father, and confess we are rebels and traitors, but desire he would not enter into judgment with us, but seek to be reconciled to God the Father. Now, as God bade the friends of Job to go to Job, chap. xlii. 8, so God sends us to Christ, in whom alone he is well pleased with the creature. If we go to the Son, he refers us to the Spirit, to be reclaimed from our impurity and rebellion. If we go to the Spirit, he refers us to Moses and the prophets, pastors and teachers; there we shall hear of him in Christ’s way, and there we feel the rod of Christ’s strength, the efficacy of his grace put into our hearts.
Thus are we brought into his kingdom, and made to be a mystical body and spiritual society, in whom Christ rules; and there we come to enjoy those freedoms I spake of; and our obedience to this kingdom is carried on in a spiritual manner. In worship, we give our homage to God; in the word, we come to learn his laws; in the sacraments, we renew our oath of allegiance to this king; in alms and charity, we pay him tribute; in Prayers lye ask his leave, acknowledging his dominion; and praise, it is our rent to the great Lord, from whom we hold all things. And thus is Christ’s kingdom carried on in a spiritual manner.
Use 1. The use is to press you to come under this kingdom. Consider what God hath proffered to draw you off from your carnal delights and sinful pleasures: no less than a kingdom to bear you out, to call you off from your sins. Oh, do not answer, as the olive tree and the vine in Jotham’s parable: Judges ix. 9, ‘ Shall I leave my fatness, and go to be promoted over the trees?’ God comes to a worldling, and makes him a proffer of this blessed state, which is represented by a kingdom. Shall I leave all my sports and worldly hopes? (according as the man is affected). Shall I renounce my pleasures, live a strict and austere life? Must I leave of projects, saith a worldling, and depend upon the reversion of heaven? oh, consider it is for a glorious kingdom. Men will do much for an earthly crown, though lined with cares, -for this golden ball, which all hunt after, and doth occasion so many stirs in the world. Turn your ambition this way. you may aspire to a crown, to the kingdom of heaven, without the crime of treason. This is a faithful ambition: it is indeed treason against the kingdom of heaven, not to look after this crown, and plot, contrive, and act, and offer violence for the obtaining of it. And, therefore, come under this kingdom. If you do not, you will be left under the power of a worse: 2 Chron. xii. 8, God saith, he would give them up to the king of Egypt; why? ‘ They shall be his servants, that they may know my service, and the service of the kingdoms of the countries:’ that they might see what difference there is between serving God and serving others. If you refuse God’s government, you are under a worse, under sin, and the power of darkness; you are under your own lusts; nay, and by a just judgment God may give you over to live in bondage to unmerciful men. How many kings and lords doth he serve that will not serve one Lord?
Oh, therefore, renounce those other lords that have dominion over you, and come under this Kingdom which God hath set up.
Use 2. To press the children of God:-
1. To walk worthy of the gospel: it is a kingdom. The apostle hath an exhortation and charge to this purpose: 1 Thes. ii. 11,12, ‘That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.’ Walk in obedience to Christ, that is one thing. Christ is a king by a natural right; God bath chosen him, God hath set him upon his holy hill: ‘The Lord hath made him to be head over all things,’ Eph i. 22 Nay, the church chooseth Christ: ‘ They shall appoint to themselves one head,’ Hosea i. 11. And, therefore, for you that are called to his kingdom and glory, that have entered into covenant with Christ, that have subscribed to him as head and king; for you to be disobedient, give way to sin, it is worse in yon. ‘ Will ye go away also? ‘ saith Christ to his disciples. Christ hath a right to reign over wicked men; but you have actually chosen him. Treason is less culpable in those which have not submitted to a power and Prince, and owned him for their king, than in those that have sworn faith and allegiance. You have passed under the bond of the holy oath, ‘ God hath called you to his kingdom and glory;’ therefore vou should be more obedient than to allow a disloyal thought or rebellious lust against Christ.
2. As you should be more holy, wary, watchful, that you do not break the laws of Christ, for you have consented to him; so live as kings, exercising all acts of regality within your own souls, ruling your affection that will not be bridled. It is a disgrace to the regal estate of the gospel for you to be over-mastered by a lust, to lie under the power of any sin; yet thus it is, God’s children are conflicting with one sin or other more than the rest. So far you have not experience of that truth: John viii. 32, ‘And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ A man that liveth in bondage to his lusts, how can he choose but doubt of those glorious privileges? Have you found the state of the gospel to be a kingdom? do you walk worthy of the gospel?
3. It teacheth us contempt of the world and earthly things: Phil. iii. 1,4, ‘ I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.’ It is not for princes to embrace a dunghill, nor for eagles to catch flies. Remember, thou wilt one day be a king with God in glory, and therefore shouldst not be as low and base as the men of the world are, but walk worthy of God, who hath called you to a royal state.
4. A generous confidence in the midst of the troubles and abasements of the world. What though you be accounted as the scurf and offscouring of all things? Though your outward condition be low and mean, know the worth of your high calling in Christ. How poor and despicable soever you are in this world, yet you are heirs of a crown and kingdom. Therefore remember you are princes, that walk up and down in disguise in a foreign country. If you are kept in a mean condition, it is but a disguise God hath put upon yon. We are the sons of God, though for the present it doth not appear what we shall be. God’s heirs make little show in the world. But there is a high dignity, a mighty privilege put upon you; you are called to be heirs of this kingdom, and this blessed and royal estate, which God hath provided for them that love him.
Use 3. Are we translated into this kingdom? Col. i. 13, ‘ He hath delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.’ Every man naturally is under other lords, the devil hath dominion over him, and he is under the government of his own lusts; but now are we translated into the kingdom of Christ.
The second point is:-
Doct. 2. All those that are affected with God’s glory should desire the coming of this kingdom, and seriously deal with God about it.
None else can rescue and pluck them out of the power of darkness and deliver them from the thralldom of those other lords that hold them, and none else can defend add preserve them.
I shall handle the point:-
1. In a private respect.
2. In a public respect
First, In a private respect. Every man should desire that the kingdom of God should come down and be set up in his own heart. Here I must repeat and apply the distinctions of Christ’s Kingdom. He is to desire the kingdom of grace and the kingdom of glory may come to himself and others.
1. The kingdom of grace, that it may be begun, continued, and increased.
First, That this kingdom may be begun, and a throne erected for Christ in our hearts. The great necessity of this request will be evidenced in these considerations:-
[1.] That every man by nature is under another king, under the kingdom of sin and Satan. Satan is the monarch, and sin is the sceptre. Christ and the devil divide the world; either we belong to the one or the other. Now the devil, by reason of the fall of Adam, he hath the start of Christ, and the Lord Jesus coming to possess the heart, doth not seize upon it as a waste which belongeth to the next occupier, but he seizeth upon it as already possessed by Satan. The devil quietly ruleth in the hearts of the unregenerate. He keeps house, and all the goods are in peace, Luke xi. 21; and therefore wicked spirits are called, ‘ The rulers of the darkness of this world,’ Eph. Vi. 12. All the ignorant and carnal part of the world falls to his share, and he doth not easily quit possession. Christ indeed employeth men to wrestle with principalities and powers. The work of the ministry is to shake and batter the empire of the devil You must be turned, you must be rescued. You must be turned: Acts xxvi 18, ‘ To turn them from the power of Satan unto God.’ You must be rescued and plucked out of this captivity by the strong hand: Col. i 13, ‘Who hath delivered us from the power of Satan;’ who hath taken us out of darkness by a powerful rescue. Even as the Israelites were brought out of Egypt ‘ by a strong hand and stretched-out arm so are we brought out of the power of darkness. By such an irresistible power of grace must God recover you, otherwise men yield themselves up to his sceptre. Look, as the Spirit of God works holy motions and gracious desires in the hearts of God’s children, so the devil is ‘ at work in the children of disobedience,’ Eph. ii. 2, framing wicked devices, carnal desires, evil thoughts against God. Man is such a perfect slave to the devil that he can do nothing but sin.
[2.] This kingdom which Satan exerciseth is an invisible kingdom. The devil doth not sensibly appear to his vassals and slaves. When Christ’s kingdom and regiment was more external, so was the devil’s also. As when God was served by sacrifices, and delivered his mind by oracles, so men did then more professedly own the devil by observing his prescribed rites of worship, and by being deluded by lying oracles, and answers to their prayers and questions. But now, since the kingdom of Christ is more spiritual, and managed by the Holy Ghost in the hearts of his saints, so is Satan’s kingdom invisible. So that men may be Christ’s subjects by external profession, and the devil’s by internal obedience and constitution of mind, though they worship not by pagan rites, as he ruleth in their hearts, and takes them off from obeying the gospel they profess. ‘ The god of this world hath blinded their eyes:’ 2 Cor. iv. 4. All carnal men, however they defy Satan, and abominate the thought of serving him, yet while they remain in their sin and ignorance, they still hold the crown upon the devil’s head. Look, as God’s subjects may own him in verbal pretence, yet their hearts may be far from him: Mat. xv. 8. So that wicked men may defy the devil in pretence and words, and cannot endure to hear of him; but they are under the god of this world, he hath blinded their hearts. So that this kingdom is to be fought for in the heart. Christ made a great inroad upon the devil, beat him out of his quarters; yet, as the sea gets in one place what it loseth in another, so though the devil hath lost ground in the Christian world as to external profession, whilst people renounce the superstitions of the Gentiles, yet still he gets ground in the hearts of wicked men by their carnal dispositions; his empire is upheld still, though professedly they are subjects of Christ.
[3.] Until Satan be cast out of the throne, Christ can have no entertainment in the heart. The ark and Dagon cannot sink and stand together; either the ark must be removed, or Dagon will down upon his face: so 2 Cor. vi. 14, ‘ What communion hath Christ with Belial, and light with darkness?’ It is impossible both kingdoms can stand together, or both kings be set up in the same heart. The marriage-bed will admit no partner nor rival. A man must be under Christ or Satan. Until he be cast out, Christ hath no room to be entertained: Mat. vi. 24, ‘ No man can serve two masters; ye cannot serve God and Mammon.’ Look upon the devil under that notion, as he is Mammon, as he doth entice to worldliness: it is impossible to serve him and Christ. Both masters have work enough for their servants, and their commands are contrary. If two masters consent to employ one man in the self-same business, though they are two men, yet they are but one master. But now to execute the wills of men which differ in their design, and which have a several and full interest in our labours and actions, it is as impossible as to move two contrary ways at once. Well, then, Mammon and Christ, Belial and Christ, divide the world. It is impossible to be under Belial and Christ; both have full work for us to do, and their designs are contrary. So that either it must appear we have changed masters, or we are under the power of the devil still. We must come out of the power of darkness, else we cannot be brought into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, that we may obtain remission of sins.
[4.] Satan may be cast out in part, and yet still retain a supreme interest in the heart. I prove it out of that parable, Mat. xii. 4345: ‘ When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, but findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house, from whence I came out,’ . Out of that parable we may plainly conclude there may be a shaking of Satan’s empire, Satan may be cast out of a man in some sort, yet the man not plainly renewed. Well, how may he be cast out, and yet his empire remain unbroken? He may be cast out partly by conviction and illumination; yet as long as any lust remaineth there unmortified and unsubdued, he still keeps his sovereignty in the heart. Many begin to be troubled, and to be thoughtful about eternity, that see better, yet they do that which is worse in the issue. When there is a conflict between corruption and conviction, corruption carrieth it away. As iron often heated and often quenched is so much the harder; so, when they had some wamblings of conscience, and the heart begins to boggle, and after this sin breaks out the more. This is the scope of that place: they were convinced of a better estate, and had some thoughts of the Messiah but did not give him entertainment. Again the devil may be cast out in regard of some external reformation. A man may a little wash his polluted life and abstain from gross sins, yet Satan have full possession of the inner man. A man may abjure his former ill life, and for a while carry it fair, but afterwards retain his former filthiness, and keep a secret league with his lusts, and so he is entangled again, and then ‘ his latter end is worse than his beginning;’ and as it is in 2 Pet. ii. 22, ‘ The dog is turned to his own vomit again and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.’ A prisoner which hath made some escape, if ever the gaoler get him into his clutches, is sure to be laden with irons; so one that hath had some partial reformation, oh, when the devil gets such a man into his power again, he is ten times worse than he was before.
[5.] The difficulty of casting off the sovereignty of Satan, lieth. partly in ourselves and partly in the devil.
Partly in ourselves. As in the Israelites going out of Egypt, the difficulty lay, not only in gaining the consent of Pharaoh, for he pursues after them when they were gone, but also in persuading the people to give their consent – it was long ere Israel desired to be gone – so in our natural condition, the mind of man is so depraved that he thinks his bondage to be his freedom, and that there is no such merry life as to wallow in carnal satisfactions; and our affections are so far engaged to this sinful estate, that we dote upon our shackles, and are unwilling to hear of a change. The first step of coming out of this kingdom of darkness is when we find it to be a heavy burthen, and grow weary of the devil’s government, though it be but out of a principle of self-love, Isa xxvi.13: ‘O Lord, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.’ Yes, but as soon as we begin to have any serious thoughts of that miserable state in which we are, Satan interposeth, dealing with us as Pharaoh did with the Israelites. The Israelites complain their bondage was very sore; what doth Pharaoh? He doubles the burthen: Exod. v. 17, ‘ You are idle,’ &e.; -so that out of bondage of soul they would not hearken to Moses. Just so Satan deals with us. When souls begin to be serious, and to leave off fleshly and worldly lusts, and to give up themselves to God that they may be directed in the way of holiness and obtain eternal life, then he doubles our burthens. Corruptions are never more stirring than after some conviction: Rom. vii. 9, ‘ When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died;’ not only as to a deeper sense of the guilt of it, but as to its struggling for life. The bullock at the first yoking is most unruly; so we which are unaccustomed to the yoke, when we begin once to take it upon us, there is a mighty backwardness Fire at first kindling makes abundance of smoke; so when conviction is stirring, corruption is more exasperated. The devil is very jealous of the first beam of light which breaks into the heart, and of every ordinance which conveys it; therefore sets corruptions at work, that it may appear to be a vain hope of ever escaping his clutches: so men are tired and give over, and think it is to no purpose. But if light increases to more trouble, the devil seeks to elude the importunity of it by delay; as Pharaoh put off Moses and Aaron still by delay: or else by compromising and compounding the business; as Pharaoh, when he saw the people would go, God would have them go, then they should not go far: Exod. viii 28. So if men will be thinking of Christ’s service, and coming under his government, they shall go, but not far; they shall come and pray, and come and hear now and then, and make a general profession, but not too far in Cbrist’s quarters; he is afraid of that. Just as Pharaoh stood bucking still; they must go a good way into the wilderness, otherwise it should be an abomination to the Egyptians, yet their little ones must stay. If people will not only hear and pray, but begin to reform and cleanse their lives, yet he must have a pledge, some lust, as a nest-egg, left in the heart, some darling sin that must keep up the devils empire. Then they must leave their herds, then leave their flocks; no, not a hoof Ah! how long is it, when we are under this flower of darkness, ere we are free, and get rid of the government of Satan!
[6.] We can never be sure that Satan is wholly cast out until Christ be seriously received and entertained as Lord and King, until he dwell and rule in the heart by faith. Alas! there may be some brabble now and then between us and our sins, and some partial dislikes; but until you heartily consent to take another king, that you will be governed and ordered by, you are not his subjects, but remain in the same state: John i. 12, ‘ As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.’ We are children of the devil before, under his standard and government; but when we receive him, then we are under another king, another owner: when we receive what God offered, receive Christ as Lord and King, when the whole soul opens the door to Christ, that the King of Glory may come in, and dwell with us and reign over us, then is his kingdom set up. The first offer of the gospel is Christ as Prince and Saviour; Acts v. 31. And the main thing the business sticks at is Christ’s regal power Luke xix. 14, ‘ We will not have this man to reign over us.’ Now, when we receive him with all our hearts, and though before we had but mean thoughts of him, now he begins to be welcome to us, and with the dearest embraces of our souls we entertain him; and with a willing resignation we give up ourselves, not only by a consent of dependence, to rest upon him for reconciliation with God, but by a willing subjection to obey him, and give up the keys of the heart, and lay them at Christ’s feet: as Paul, Acts ix. 16, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? When you desire nothing more but that his kingdom might come, the King of glory himself, than that he might bring righteousness, peace, and Joy in the Holy Ghost- until then you are not entered into his kingdom.
[7.] Christ is not received and entertained as Lord and King, but where his laws are obeyed Col. iii. 6, ‘ As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.’ If you receive him as Lord and King, so also obey him. And Heb. xii. 28, ‘ We receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. In this prayer, first, we say, ‘ Thy kingdom come’ ,then presently we add, ‘ Thy will be done.’ We do but prattle on the Lord’s Prayer, and say it with our lips only, until we are resolved to do what God would have us to do -love and hate, fear and rejoice, as God directs. Until we are brought to this frame, we do not in good earnest say, ‘Thy kingdom come.’ An earthly king will do according to his will. Dan xi.
-3. So Christ stands upon his will in his law. If you have taken God for your God, and Jesus Christ for your King, then say, with David, Ps cxliii 10, ‘Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God.’ It is a universal maxim, ‘ His servants you are whom you do obey.’ Where is your obedience? If subjects of grace, ‘ Every thought is brought in subjection: ‘ 2 Col x. 5. You will watch not only against your irregular actions, but every thought which lifts up itself against the obedience of Christ. There will be a greater tenderness upon us not to break any of the holy laws which belong to Christ’s government. Hereby you may know whether you come under another king, Do you fear a commandment? That is the description of a good man: Prov. xiii. 13. It is not he that feareth a punishment, but he that feareth a commandment, when the heart is brought under an awe of Christ’s laws; so that when a man is tempted to sin, Oh, I dare not; the Lord hath commanded me the contrary. This is more than if a flaming sword stood in his way. When we have such workings of heart when we are tempted to this and that sin, so when we are doing any duty, though irksome to flesh and blood, yet it is the will of my Lord, to whom I have entirely given up myself in a way of subjection; this is a sign you are brought under his government
[8.] None can obey his laws but by the virtue and power of his Spirit. The new covenant, it is not only a law, but ‘ the Iaw of the Spirit of life which is in Christ.’ So it is called by the apostle, Bom. viii. 2. It is not a bare literal command that shall urge us to duty; but it giveth strength and efficacy to the heart. Other kings, they give laws, that men may keep them by their own strength; but now Christ, he would be owned AS a king, not only in a way of subjection, but establish a constant dependence. He is a king, not only to require, but to give repentance, Acts v. 31; not only to make a law, but to write and work a sense of this new covenant-gift upon the heart, Heb. viii 10. He doth not only set up his ordinances, laws, constitutions, but there is power goeth along with the dispensation of this kingdom, and thereby we are fitted and enabled to love, serve, and please God; and then are we under the kingdom of God, when we are under the spiritual power of it. It is not only necessary to obey his laws, but that we do it by virtue of his power and Spirit: ‘ The kingdom of God stands not in word, but in power,’ 1 Cor. iv. 20. That we may both acknowledge his authority and wait for his strength. This i8 a true submission, when we look for all from him, and serve him in the strength of his own grace.
[9.] All those that act through the virtue and power of his Spirit, they do unfeignedly seek his glory, and make Christ to be not only their principle, but their end; for having a new principle, they have a new tendency; acting in the power of the Spirit, their hearts are carried out to seek Christ’s interest and Christ’s glory. When they can say with the apostle, Phil. i. 21, ‘ To me to live is Christ,’ when their whole business is to set up Christ. We set up ourselves in the room of Christ, if he be not at the end of all: 2 Thes. i. 11, 12, ‘ That God might fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power, and that Christ may be glorified in you.’ If you have the power of Christ’s kingdom, this will be the immediate result and issue of it, that Christ may be honoured and set up, not only as a lawgiver and fountain of grace, but as the last end. If to us to live is Christ, then is the kingdom of God come into our heart. For this we pray, that the Lord would so break the yoke and government of Satan, that we may receive the Lord Jesus into our heart, that we may come under the awe of his laws, and in the power of his grace may seek his kingdom and glory.
To conclude: All this grace is offered to you; if you refuse the offer, your condition is worse than if it had never been tendered to you. The Lord hath sent his Son to help you out of the power of the devil, and bring you in heart and life again to himself; if you refuse this, then ‘This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light:’ John iii. 19. The Lord Jesus, when he comes in flaming fire to render vengeance, it shall be upon them that do not obey his government, 2 Thes. i. 8, that did not acknowledge God to be their sovereign. There will be a sore vengeance on them which had the gospel tendered, and this wonderful provision brought home to them, and left to their choice, and yet have turned their backs upon it.
Secondly, we beg the continuance of it, that he would maintain this kingdom in our heart, and preserve us in this state; for those which can call God Father, are still to say ‘Thy kingdom come.’ It is not enough to go to Christ to begin it, but to carry it on, and to keep and preserve us unto his heavenly kingdom,’ 2 Tim iv. 18; that we may not revolt to the devil’s side after we have chosen God for our God, and so our latter end be worse. than our beginning.
Thirdly, we pray for the increase of it, that it may get ground more and more. There are some relics of the kingdom of darkness yet left, and there is something wanting to the kingdom of grace; we are troubled and molested still. Though sin doth not get the throne, though the regency of it is cast down, yet it is not cast out in regard of inherence. ‘ Sin shall not have dominion over you;’ that is all we can hope for: Rom. vi. 14. We cannot hope for an extinction of sin, but only that it shall not have dominion. As the beasts in Dan. vii.12 though their dominion was taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a seasons and time. The. reign, power, and dominion of sin is taken down, yet it continues for our exercise and molestation. Now, we desire he might rule in us by his grace, and that of the increase of his government there may be no end.
II. For the kingdom of glory, which, in this private consideration (as it concerns each person), is to begin at death. And when we desire the coming of the kingdom of glory, we do two things: we express our readiness for it, or our desire after it.
1. Our readiness for it; at least, the kingdom of God is ready for us if we were ready for it; as the apostle saith, 1 Pet. iv. 5. God is ready to judge, but we are not ready to be judged. And therefore we read of the kingdom of heaven prepared for us, and of men prepared for the kingdom of heaven. It is prepared for the saints: Mat. xxv. 34, ‘ A kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ And the saints prepared for it: Rom. ix. 23, ‘ Vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.’ And this is that which the apostle gives thanks for unto the Father: ‘ Which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,’ Col. i. 12. Before we come to heaven, there is a right to heaven; we are made meet, more mortified and weaned from present things, often in communion with God here, and so for ever with the Lord hereafter. We are still to have our eyes to our rest and happy state, that we may be made ready for it. We express our readiness, or we beg it.
2. That we may express our desires after the enjoyment of it. A Christian is to desire the company of Christ: Phil. i. 13, ‘ I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ;’ and he is to hasten the coming of the day of God: 2 Pet. iii. 12.
Now because this cannot be but by our death, therefore here we may examine a case or two.
Case 1. First, about longing for death. Is it lawful to desire death? The law doth not only forbid acts, but thoughts and desires; therefore is it lawful to long for death?
Ans. Yes; but yet we are not anxiously to long after it till the time come; not to grow weary of life out of desperation and tiresomeness of the cross, as Jonah did, chap. iv. 3; but in order to God s glory and accomplishment of our happiness. See more at large, Ps. cxix. verse 17.
Case 2. Secondly, Do all that have an interest in Christ desire to die? Is not death terrible? Certainly death is terrible, both as a natural and a penal evil; as in itself it is the curse of the covenant; and as it depriveth us of life, the chiefest blessing. Yet we should train up ourselves in an expectation of death; we should look and long for it, that, when the time is come, we might be willing to give up ourselves into the hands of God. It is required of a Christian that he should not only be passive in his own death, to die in peace, but active. How? to hasten his death? No; but to resign up himself willingly into the hands of God, that his soul might not be taken away, but given up and commended to God. We should be willing to be in the arms of Christ, to be there where he is, to behold his glory. If Christ had such a good-will to men as that he longed to be with us, solacing his heart with the thought of it before all worlds, Prov. viii. 31 -he was thinking of us, how he should come down, and converse with men -surely we should not be so backward to go to Christ. And, therefore, as Jacob’s spirit revived when he saw the chariots Joseph sent to carry him into Egypt, so our hearts should be more cheerful and comfortable when death approacheth: especially since death is ours, it is changed; therefore we should be framing ourselves to such a temper of heart by degrees that we might be ready.
Use 1. For reproof -to those that would be glad in their hearts if Christ’s kingdom would never come. As to the kingdom of grace, in the external administration, they hate the light, and will not come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved:’ John iii. 20. A wicked man is loth to be troubled. God’s witnesses are the world’s torment: Rev. xi. 10, ‘ They tormented them that dwelt on the earth’. A man that is bodily blind would have a fit guide; but these wretchedly blind sinners, nothing so troublesome and hateful to them as one that would lead them to the kingdom of God. And then as to internal grace, when this kingdom of heaven breaks in upon their hearts, when any light and power darts in, they seek to put it out; they ‘ resist the Holy Ghost,’ Acts vii 51, and refuse his call. And for the kingdom of glory, they say, ‘It is good to be here,’ and would not change their portion here for their portion in paradise.
Use 2. To exhort us to desire the coming of Christ’s kingdom to ourselves. If you have any love to the Lord’s glory, or your own good, you should do it: Rev. iii 20, ‘ Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ Will you not open to God that hath the best right? Will you not set open the doors to the King of glory, when Christ comes to bring entertainment to you, to sup with you? Again, all men (will they, nill they) are subject to Christ: either they must come and touch his golden sceptre, or feel the bruises of his iron mace; they must own him as king: ‘ Every knee shall bow,’ Phil. ii. 10. Therefore be more willing to have the kingdom of glory come. Again, if God be not your king, you will have a worse master, every sin, every lust: Titus iii. 3, ‘Serving divers lusts and pleasures.’ You will be at the beck of every lust and carnal motion, and the devil will be your master to purpose; for upon the refusal of Christ’s government, there is a judicial tradition, you are given up to your own hearts lusts: Ps lxxx1. 12. ‘Israel would none of me; so I gave them up to their own hearts’ lusts, and they walked in their own counsels.’ And to Satan, to be ensnared by him: 2 Tim. ii. 26, ‘ Taken captive by him at his will and pleasure.’ Not to buffet them, as Paul was, but to ensnare and harden their hearts. Again, if you be not subject to God, you go about to make God subject to you in effect. You would have the kingdom of glory, and yet continue in your lusts: Isai xliii. 2,4, ‘ Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.’ When you would have God patient, hold his hand, and be merciful to you, and yet would continue in your lusts, then you make God serve with your sins. Again, many temporal inconveniences will follow, if we do not give way to the kingdom of Christ to seize upon us. When we make no difference between God’s service and the service of other lords, then he gives us up to the service of men, to a foreign enemy, to an oppressive magistrate, or breaks the staff of government among men, that we might know what it is to be under his service and government. Therefore give willing entertainment to the kingdom of Christ.
So much for the private consideration of this request, ‘ Thy kingdom come; ‘ that is, to us and our perils, both the kingdom of grace and the kingdom of glory.
Secondly, Having spoken of the Kingdom of Christ in a private, now I come to speak of it in a public, consideration. And that is twofold:-
1. The public visible administration of the kingdom of grace,
2. The public and solemn administration of the kingdom of glory at the day of judgment, when enemies shall have their final doom, and saints have their crowns set upon their heads in the sight of all the world.
I shall speak of both, but (because the discourse may be more fresh and lively) upon other texts.
1. The public and solemn administration of the kingdom of grace, on Ps. li. 18, ‘Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of thy Jerusalem.’
2. The kingdom of glory, on Rev. xxii. 20, ‘ Surely I come quickly: Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.’
For the first. Though the church be never so afflicted, Ps. cii. 14, when all is defaced, as to external appearances lying in a ruinous heap, yet it is beloved and pitied by God’s servants: ‘ Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof. There is nothing God’s people desire so much as Zion’s welfare: Ps. cvi. 5, ‘ That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.’ And David in this psalm, Ps. li. 18, having prayed for himself, prayeth for mercy to the church and state. ‘Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion; build thou the walls of thy Jerusalem.’ But how cometh David, who was in the depth of private humiliation, so suddenly to fall upon the case of the church? There was a special reason for annexing this request to his own private complaints and confessions. The reasons will occasion so many observations.
[l.] Because of the offence, scandal, and mischief done to the church by his fall; and to make amends, he prayeth the more earnestly, let not Zion fare the worse for my sake. From thence observe, that the sins of particular persons oft bring a mischief upon the whole community. David had made a breach in the walls of God’s protection, and left them naked, and more in danger of judgment: ‘Therefore do good,’ &c.
[2.] David was not only a private member, but a prince, and their sins have a more universal influence. The sins of magistrates draw down judgments on their people, all smart for their miscarriages. Hezekiah’s pride cost Israel dear: 2 Chron. xxii. 25, ‘ Wrath was upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem.’ It did not stay upon his person. As a great oak cannot fall but all the shrubs about it suffer. But
[3.] David having some comfortable assurance of the pardon of his sins, doth now seek mercy for the church. From thence observe, that we are never fit to pray for the public, till we have made our peace with God; as the priests under the law offered sacrifice, ‘ first for their own sins, and then for the people’s:’ Heb. vii. 27.
[4.] Because being brought by such a solemn but sad occasion into God’s presence, he could not but have some thoughts of Zion. And from thence observe, that we should never come to God upon any private occasion but we should remember the public. We are to prav in love as well as faith. Christ hath not taught us to say, ‘ My Father ,’ but, ‘ Our Father,’ to show that we should take in the interests all concernments of the whole body, that there may be a spirit of communion breathing in our prayers. David doth not only say, ‘ Have mercy upon me according to thy loving-kindness,’ but, ‘ Do good unto Zion in thy good pleasure.’ Every living member will be careful for the body. Members should be careful one for another, much more for the whole. Is any member pained or grieved? -all suffer. If the toe be trod upon, the tongue complaineth, you have hurt me; but now much more when all is concerned. Therefore we should not altogether seek our own things, but wrestle with God for the public.
I. This reproveth divers sorts of people. Some are enemies to the public welfare, as vipers eat out the dam’s belly, -especially enemies to Zion: ‘ Down with it, down with it, even to the ground!’ What monsters hath this age brought forth! Others are indifferent and careless which goeth up, Christ or Antichrist; they only mind the matters of their own interest and concernment: ‘ All seek their own things.’ As to the public interest of the church, let all go how it will. Let me tell you, to be selfish is a sort of self-excommunication; you cast yourselves out of the bundle of life. And to be senseless, it is an implicit renouncing the body. Others there are that are gracious, but full of discontent at some passages of providence, and these seem to have lost their public affections. It is a sad symptom when a praying people are discouraged from praying for public welfare. God is very tender of the prayers of his people; he is loth they should be lost, and sorry they cannot be granted. We may sin in ceasing to pray. It is a sad judgment when the hearts of God’s people are taken off from praying. Again, those that pray too coldly for the public, not as those that should do their work. There is a great decay of the spirit of prayer, which is also a sad presage. But now to show you:-
II. What we should pray for for Zion.
l. The dilatation or enlargement of it throughout the world. The more ample God’s heritage is, the more is his glory known: Prov. xiv. 28, ‘ In the multitude of the people is the king’s honour; ‘ and the glory of a shepherd lieth in the number of his flock. So Christ’s kingdom, the more it is enlarged, the more honour God hath: Ps. lxvii. 2, ‘ That thy way may be known among the heathen, and thy saving health among all nations.’ Especially when the fulness of the Gentiles is brought in, Ps. liv. 9; and when the Jews are brought in, Hosea iii. 5. To be instrumental to enlarge Christ’s kingdom, it is an honour to us to draw on Christ’s triumphant chariot,-let us be sure to have a hand in it. These prayers, if sincere, are never in vain; if they profit not others, they promote the kingdom of God in ourselves.
2. The preservation and defence of the churches already planted, frustrating the plots and power of the enemies: That God would be ‘ a wall of fire round about them,’ Zech. ii. 5. Qui comminus arceat et eminus terreat. . When at the weakest God can protect them, bridling by his secret power the rage of adversaries, or defeating their attempts.
3. For comfort and deliverance in afflictions. We should pity the distressed church, as before; that God would redeem them out of all their troubles. Every true member of the church hath life from Christ; and that life giveth feeling, and that feeling affection and sympathy to rejoice and mourn. They that mourn for Zion rejoice with her: Isa lxvi. 10, ‘ Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her; rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her.’
4. For the furniture of the church, a supply of all good, internal and external.
[1.] Internal. That God would bless them with ordinances, enrich them with graces, preserve truth and unity, and continue his presence with them: his ordinances, that they may enjoy them in purity, that the word, seals, and censures may be rightly administered till the Lord come. These are things pertaining to the kingdom of God, concerning which Christ spake to the disciples: Acts i. 3. These are to be kept till Christ’s appearing: 1 Tim. vi. 14. It is an honour to God, and of great profit to the church, and a rejoicing to God’s people, to see them pure and unmixed: ‘ Though absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order,’ Col. ii. 5. And then that God would enrich them with his presence: Mat. xxviii. 20, ‘ Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ It is God that giveth the increase: ‘ Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but Good giveth the increase,’ 1 Cor. iii. 6 -for conviction, conversion, confirmation. It was not the ark, nor mercy-seat covered with cherubim but the answer from between the cherubim given immediately by God, that manifested his presence. It is not the sound of the gospel, or outward ministry, but the work of his Spirit: Ps. 1xxxiv. 2, ‘My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.’ And Acts x. 44, it is said, ‘ The Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.’ And then for unity: Christ hath called us into a body, not only into n family, but into a body. It was Christ’s own prayer: John xvii., ‘ Let them be one.’ Disputes will not heal, but prayers may.
[2.] For external helps. We should pray that God would give us pastors after his own heart: Mat. ix. 38, ‘ Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvests. Men that will discharge their duty with all faithfulness, men whose hearts are set to the building up of Christ’s kingdom, labourers. And then for schools of learning. A man that hath many orchards will also have seminaries of young plants to maintain them. Schools are seminaries, without which the church falleth to decay. And then for good magistrates, to patronise and protect God’s people, and promote his work with them: Isa xlix. 23, there is a promise, ‘ Kings shall be thy nursing-fathers, and their queens thy nursing-mothers,’ &c. Rest from persecution is a great blessing: Acts ix. 31, ‘Then had the churches rest, and were edified; and walking in the fear of God, and the comforts of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.’ It is a great mercy that the church hath any breathing. These are the things that we should pray for for Zion.
Thus much shall suffice to be spoken of the kingdom of Christ in a public consideration, with respect, first, to the public visible administration of the kingdom of grace.
I come now to speak of the second, viz., the public and solemn administration of the kingdom of glory; and for that I shall insist on that portion of scripture: Rev. xxii. 20, ‘Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.’
Here you have-
I. Christ’s proclamation.
II. The church’s acclamation in answer thereunto.
I. Christ’s proclamation: ‘ Surely I come quickly.’ Where take notice of two things:-
1. His asseveration: Surely.
2. His assertion: I come quickly.
1. His asseveration: Surely. It is a certain truth, though we do not so easily receive it. All notable truths, about which there is the greatest suspicion in the heart of the creature, you will find them thus averred in scripture; as Isa. liii. 4, ‘ Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.’ The dying of the Son of God is so mysterious that the Holy Ghost propounds it with a note of averment, Surely; that is, how unlikely soever it seems, yet this is a certain truth. So here the coming of Christ is a thing so future, so little regarded by epicures and atheists, that it is propounded with a like note of averment, ‘Surely I come quickly.’ Herein secretly is our unbelief taxed, and also our confidence engaged.
2. You have his assertion: I come quickly. Let me explain what is meant by the coming of Christ. There is a twofold coming of Christ- a personal, and a virtual Some think that the virtual coming is here meant,-his coming in the efficacy of his Spirit, or in the power of his providence, to accomplish those predictions. Here are many things prophesied of, and behold, ‘I come quickly;’ you shall find these things presently produced upon the stage of the world. So some carry it. I think rather it is to be meant of his personal coming. There are two mystical scriptures which do express all the intercourse which passeth between God and the church in the world, and they are both closed up with a desire of Christ’s coming. The Canticles is one, which declareth the communion and intercourse which is between Christ and his church; and you will find it thus closed up: Cant. viii. 14, ‘ Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe? or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.’ And so here, in this book of the Revelation, where are the like intercourses recorded, it is closed up with this: ‘Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’ The personal coming, I suppose, is here meant. Now Christ’s personal coming, it is but twofold- the first, and the second. The scripture knows of no other coming: Heb. ix. 28, ‘He shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation.’ It is but a fond dream to think of a personal reign before Christ’s coming to judgment. They reckon without book that look for any other. There was his first coming, which was to suffer; his second coming is to reign. The first his gracious, and this his glorious coming. The former is past, and the latter i8 yet expected.
‘I come quickly.’ How shall we make good that?
[1.] In general, Christ’s absence from the church is not long. Though you reflect upon the whole flux of time, from his ascension to his second coming, it is but a moment to eternity; some hundreds of years, that may be easily counted.
[2.] It is no longer than need requires. The high priest, when he was gotten within the veil, was to tarry there until his ministration was ended, until he had appeared before God, and represented himself for all the tribes, then he was to come out to bless the People. Jesus Christ tarrieth within the veil but until all the elect be gathered. ‘ He is not slack,’ 2 Pet. iii. 9, but we are hasty. Our times are present with us, but we must leave him to his own time to go and come.
[3.] Christ speaks this of the latter end of the world, and then it will not be long when once he begins to set forth. The old prophecies are accomplishing apace; and how little preparation soever there seems to be for this work, it comes apace. It is said of the anti-christian state, ‘ Her plagues shall come upon her in one day:’ Rev. xviii. 8. And of the Jews it is said, ‘A nation shall be born at once:’ Isa. lxvi. 8. So much for the first part.
II. Here is the church’s acclamation: ‘ Amen. So, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’ This acclamation is double:-
1. Implicit, and enfolded in the word Amen.
2. Explicit, and unfolded: ‘ Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’
1. For the implicit acclamation of the church, in the word Amen. The word sometimes is taken nominally: Rev. iii. 14, ‘ Thus saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness.’ He that is Amen , as it is explained there, true and faithful, that will certainly give a being to his promises. Sometimes it is used adverbially, and translated verily. It is either an affectionate desire- ‘Let it be,’ or a great asseveration- ‘ It shall be.’ It hath in it an affectionate desire: Jer. xxviii. 6, the prophet said, ‘ Amen, the Lord do so, the Lord perform thy words,’ &c. When he had prophesied peace to the people: ‘ Amen, the Lord perform thy words; not to confirm the truth of his prophecy, but to express his own wish and hearty desire, if it might stand with the will of God. Then it expresseth a firm belief that it shall be done. Thus Christ often saith, ‘ Amen, verily, verily I say unto you,’ by way of strong asseveration. Well, then, the church expresseth her faith and desire implicitly: Amen, Lord, that it were so; and surely, Lord, it shall be so; we believe it, and we desire it with all our hearts.
2. Explicitly: ‘ Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’ From this latter clause I might observe many things.
[1.] The sweet and blessed harmony that is between Christ and the church. Christ’s voice and the church’s voice are unisons. Christ saith, ‘ I come.’ And the church, like a quick echo, takes the word out of Christ’s mouth, ‘ Even so, come.’ There is the same Spirit in Christ and in the church; for it is his Spirit that resides with us. Christ, he speaks in a way proper to him, by way of promise, ‘ I come.’ And the church in a way proper to her, by way of prayer, ‘ Even so, come.’
[2.] I might observe that, in the close of the world, we should most earnestly desire Christ’s coming. We have the advantage of former times. To us Christ saith, ‘ I come quickly.’ Now the set time almost is come, therefore our pulses should beat more strongly in putting up this request to Christ. Tertullian shows that the primitive Christians did pray pro mora finis, that the end might not come too soon, Christ having as yet but a small interest in the world, they expecting enlargement upon earth; but we have more cause to look for the accomplishment of his kingdom in heaven. They expected the revelation of Antichrist, and we expect the destruction of Antichrist. They, that God might be known in the world; we, that he might be no longer dishonoured in the world. When great promises are near their accomplishment, there is a more lively spirit stirring in the hearts of the saints: Dan. ix. 2, 3, ‘ I understood by books the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face to the Lord Clod, to seek by prayer and supplication.’
But quitting these notes, I shall mainly insist upon this point, viz.:
Doct: That the church and all the faithful members of it, do really and heartily desire Christ’s second coming.
They look for it, they long for it, they wait for it. They look for it: Phil. iii. 20, ‘Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.’ They reckon upon it, as Rebekah espied Isaac afar off. He is gone within the veil, he is appearing before God, but he will come out again. When they see the clouds, upon these one day will our Saviour come. Then they long for it. It is their description: 2 Tim. iv. 8, ‘ They love his appearing.’ Wicked men and guilty sinners hate and abhor it, he being to come to them as a terrible judge. Malefactors do not long for the assizes. But now the saints, who are absolved and washed in the blood of Christ, it doth them good to the heart to think of it, that one day Christ will appear in all his glory. And then they wait for it: 1 Thes 1. 10, ‘They wait for his Son from heaven, even Jesus, who hath delivered us from wrath to come.’ It is ‘wrath to come,’ something behind the coming of Christ, which makes it so terrible. Hell makes the day of judgment terrible. The devil could not endure to hear of Christ’s coming, Mat. viii. 29, ‘ Art thou come to torment us?’ &c. So wicked men have the spirit of the devil; it is a torment and bondage to them to think of the Judge’s coming. But those which have their discharge, they wait for it. It supports and bears up their hearts in the midst of their present afflictions, and they go on cheerfully in their work, notwithstanding lets and troubles.
To give some reasons why the faithful members of Christ so really and heartily desire Christ’s second coming. They are of three sorts:-
1. Some in respect of the person who is to come.
2. Some in respect of the persons which desire his coming.
3. Some in respect of the coming itself
I. In respect of him who is to come.
1. His person, that we may see him. The children of God have delighted to look upon him through a veil, and have had a kind of heaven upon earth from beholding his face in the glass of an ordinance. Looking upon him in the veil of ordinances hath been a mighty comfort and refreshing to them; now they would desire to see his person face to face. They know by hearsay this great Redeemer and Saviour of theirs; he wooeth them by proxy. As Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, was to go abroad and seek for a match for his master’s son, so the great business of the ministers of God is to set forth our Master’s Son. Now the saints would fain see him. Nay, they have not only heard of him, but believed in him, and received him into their hearts Nay, not only believed in him, but they have loved him greatly: 1 Pet. i 8, ‘ Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.’ It hath been a ravishing thought to them to think of Christ. And they have tasted: 1 Pet. ii. 3, ‘ If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.’ And they have felt him in the drawings of the Spirit; they live by his life, they have found a virtue going out from him. Now all that they desire is, that they may see this great person, who hath been their Redeemer and Saviour.
2. Consider him as in his person, so in his relations to them. Here are two titles: ‘ Even so, Lord Jesus.’ He is Lard, and he is Jesus. He is Lord, as a master and husband; as Sarah called Abraham, Lord. As a Master: good servants will look for their master’s coming: Mat. xxiv. 46. And surely such a Master should be longed for and looked for, for when he comes, he will not come empty-handed: ‘Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me,’ Rev. xxii. 12. Here Christ’s servants have their vales, but not their wages. Here they have present maintenance, that is all they have now, but then they shall have their reward and wages. Here they have their earnest, but then they shall have the full sum. Under the law masters were charged severely not to defraud their servants of their hire- why? He hath lift up his soul to him; that is, in the middle of his hard labours this was his comfort: when the work of the day was over, he should have his wages and his hire at night. So you have lift up your souls to him; the great pay-day will come, and this hath borne you up in all your labours and travail of your soul. Therefore, as he is our Lord, so we should look for him. And then as our Husband; this is a sweeter relation: ‘ The bride saith, Come,’ Rer. xxiii. 17. We are here contracted and betrothed to Christ: ‘ I will betroth thee to me,’ Hosea ii. 19. But the day of solemn espousals is hereafter. Here we are betrothed to Christ in the covenant of grace; Christ hath taken a token from us, and left a token with us. He hath taken human flesh, carried our nature to heaven, that he might be mindful of us, and hath left the Spirit with us. Now there will be a longing, looking, and waiting for this day of solemn espousals. And as he is Lord, so he is Jesus, a Saviour. With what melting wishes doth the captive long for a Saviour and Redeemer! Now ‘ we look for a Saviour from heaven.’ Christ is a Saviour now, but not a perfect Saviour to the uttermost; never till then. Therefore the day of judgment is called ‘the day of redemption:’ Eph. iv. 30. There is something left, that every coming of Christ might bring some benefit; something of misery left upon us to the last day. Here we have enemies within and without. Within, mighty lusts; and therefore his coming is ‘ like a refiner’s fire,’ Mal. iii. 2, ‘ and fullers’ soap.’ His first and second coming we find oft in the Old Testament put together. His coming is ‘ to present us holy, without spot and blemish:’ Eph. v. 27. Our present state is but a convalescency, a recovery out of sickness by degrees. There is some fruit of sin left upon the body, until the day of the general resurrection, that we may have new matter of glorifying God just as we are entering into heaven. Therefore that every coming of Christ might bring us a new benefit, the body is to die. The old Adam is not quite abolished until God be all in all. And so for enemies without us. Here we dwell among wicked men, whose sins are a grievance to us, and whose injuries are a very great molestation and trouble. We live here, like Lot in Sodom: ‘his righteous soul was vexed with their ungodly deeds,’ their filthy conversation. But then there v/ill be a perfect separation between the sheep and the goats. Here we are exposed to many persecutions; here Antichrist is but consuming; there he shall totally and utterly be abolished.
II. If we respect the persons desiring this coming, there is something in them to move them to it. There is:-
1. The Spirit of Christ.
2. Certain graces which do necessarily issue themselves into this work.
3. Certain experiences they have, which put them upon this longing.
1. There is the Spirit of Christ: ‘ The Spirit and the bride saith, Come,’ Rev. xxii. 17. The Holy Ghost breedeth this desire in the church. Nature saith, it is good to be here; but this is a disposition above nature, the Spirit in the bride. The flesh and corrupt nature saith, ‘ Depart; ‘ but the Spirit saith, ‘Come.’ The great work of the Spirit is to bring us and Christ together; he comes from the Father and the Son, to bring us to the Father by the Son. All he doth is to bring Christ and his spouse together; therefore he enkindleth in the hearts of God’s people a strong and earnest desire of his coming.
2. There are graces planted in us; faith, hope, love, zeal. Faith, that is the ground of this desire. Christ saith he comes quickly; and this provokes and draws up the desire to believe Christ will be as good as his word: John xiv. 2, 3, ‘I go to my Father, and will come again to receive you to myself.’ Christ hath ever been plain-hearted with us: he saith, ‘ I come; ‘ and the church saith, ‘ Amen,’ in a way of faith, ‘Even so, come.’ If Christ had gone away in discontent, and with a threatening in his mouth that we should never have seen his face more, then we could have had but cold hopes and faint desires; but he parted in love, and left a promise with us. The church and the believing soul saith, I have his word for it: he hath ever been punctual hitherto, and kept his word to a tittle, and hath said, ‘I will come again.’ This upholdeth the hearts of believers during his absence; for they reason thus: What need had Christ to flatter or deceive us, or promise more than he sill perform? Would we flatter a worm that we can easily crush? He can strike us dead if we do not please him; he hath been true in all things, and we have ever found him plain-hearted. Then there is hope planted in the saints. Hope is faith’s handmaid, it looks for that which we believe: faith determines the certainty of the thing, then hope looks for it. This grace was made on purpose that we might reach out to heaven and see if our beloved be coming, that we might expect our full and future happiness. God not only provides a glorious estate for us, but grace to expect it. He works this hope in us that we might look after it: 1 Pet. i. 3, ‘ He hath begotten us again unto a lively hope.’ Then there is love in the saints to Christ. This is an affection of union, it desires to be with the party beloved; he desireth to be with us, and we with him. Love awakeneth earnest longings: ‘ oh, come, come! why is his chariot so long a-coming? ‘ As a loving wife stands upon the shore ready to welcome her expected husband, so doth love in the saints; they desire to be with Christ, therefore they long for the kingdom of God coming to themselves out of love: Phil. i. 23, ‘ I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ.’ And upon the same ground they desire the general resurrection of the church. Especially is this inflamed with the thoughts of Christ’s love to us. He hath removed his bodily presence from us, yet he cannot be satisfied until he and we meet again: John xiv. 3, ‘ I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also;’ and John xvii. 24, ‘ And that you may be there with me, to behold my glory.’ Christ is not satisfied in his glorious estate until we be with him, till he hath our company, and we be beatified with the sight of him. Before his coming in the flesh, he delighted to be with the saints before the world was: Prov. viii. 31. And when the world was made, before his incarnation., he took pleasure to come and appear in the fashion of a man, and converse with his people in human shape. In the days of his flesh, he delighted to spend his time and busy himself among them that are faithful. And when he was to go from us, he did assure us of returning, and cannot be quiet until we be with him. So, reciprocally, and according to our measure, doth love work in us; we cannot be without Christ, therefore we long to be with him.
Then zeal is planted in the saints, and a tenderness for his glory. It is not their interest only which makes them desire his coming, but that the king may sit upon the throne, that Christ may reign in the most perfect manner, that the day of manifestation may come, that all mists and clouds which are upon his person may vanish. The saints that love the glory of God as well as their own salvation, nay, above their own salvation, are longing for that time when Christ shall be seen in all his glory, that he may be dishonoured no more, that sin and opposition may have an end. Here God hath not his perfect glory, neither from us nor from the wicked, neither from angels nor devils: not his perfect glory from us, and therefore the saints long for that time when Christ may be more admired in them; it is the comfort of their souls that God is glorified in their glory, that there will a time come when he shall be admired and glorified in their glory, and when they shall praise him for evermore, without weakness and distraction. And then the wicked, that they may oppose and dishonour him no more, that the whole course of justice may be seen in the history of the world, which shall be produced at the day of judgment; that his power may be seen, when devils and all ungodly men are trodden underfoot, and all offences taken away, and all opposite powers are abolished. First, Christ would zealously affect us to the glory of God: ‘Hallowed be thy name;’ then he would have us pray, ‘ Thy kingdom come,’ that our zeal for God’s glory might make us earnest and instant for his kingdom. Then,
3. There are certain experiences that we have here which set us a-longing and groaning for this time: Rom. viii. 23, ‘ we which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.’ When they have tasted of the clusters of Canaan, oh, they long to see the land; they long that Jesus, the captain of their salvation, the spiritual Joshua, may lead them into the good land. The church hath here enjoyed Christ in her house: ‘ I brought him into my mother’s house,’ Cant. iii. 4. Now they would enjoy him in his own house, have a more plentiful enjoyment of him. Wherefore have we a taste, but to long for a fuller banquet? Why doth God give out such a pittance, but to awaken our desires to look for more? Indeed these beginnings are sweet, and are a wonderful mercy; to hear Christ say in a promise, ‘ Come to me, that you may have life.’ But when once they have embraced this, they will be longing for another call, for the great voice to say, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father,’ &c. When Christ biddeth them welcome into the kingdom of heaven, to the crown of glory; when we can get any joy in the Holy Ghost, a little peace of conscience, any sweet experience of our being cleansed from sin, this is reviving and comfortable. But why is this given, but to set us a-longing for the whole harvest? for this is but the first-fruits. It is sweet now to find pardon of sin, and any comfortable feeling of God’s love in the conscience; to have any doubt resolved, any fear silenced and suppressed; to have a glimpse of the light of God’s countenance, a little elevation of the heart in duty. Now this draws on the soul to long for more, for we begin then to think. What a sweet reviving will it be when we enjoy the full of all these things! If there be but one promise now set home upon our hearts, though here we have only the right, not enjoyment; if we have but our right cleared up to a promise, it is very reviving. God gives us this experience, that we may long to enjoy the thing promised, the full possession of it. When you have gone away feasted with loves at the Lord’s table, thou hast said, One hour’s communion with God is better than all the world. If thy heart was melted a little in duty, if it was affected with godly sorrow for sin, it hath yielded thee more comfort than all the mirth and music which fond worldlings cheer themselves withal, than all their jollity. Now this is but given as a foretaste, as a prelibation, and to awaken our desires after more. In the Lord’s Supper many times we come and drink of that cup which God hath tempered for us; this is but a dark presignification of the ‘ new wine we shall drink in our Father’s kingdom,’ Mat. xxvi. 29, and of those eternal comforts we shall have there, and those unmixed joys in the presence of Christ. Therefore, because of the tastes they have had, and those beginnings of glory, their hearts will be more enlarged and drawn out to look for more, and long for that happy time when all this shall be accomplished.
III. There may be arguments taken and drawn from the coming itself, that they long for his coming. Wherefore doth Christ come? what are the ends of it? It is to manifest his love to the saints mainly, as to punish his enemies and glorify his justice.
1. I will mention the first; to gather the saints together, to draw all his scattered people into one holy body and communion: Ps. 1. 5, ‘ Gather my saints together unto me, those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.’ Now they are scattered up and down, as God hath service for them to do; one here, another there: they are spread in several places, where they are like two or three berries in the upper-most top of the bough. That psalm is generally acknowledged to be spoken of the day of judgment; then they are gathered to meet in one great assembly. The psalmist speaks of ‘the great congregation of the righteous,’ where the ‘ sinners shall not stand’ Ps. i. 5. At that great day when Christ comes, all the saints shall make but one assembly and one congregation. As the wicked shall be bundled together, and the tares cast into unquenchable fire, so all the saints shall be gathered together into one great assembly, and this glads their hearts. Therefore we are not feasted to the full, because we have not all our company; all the guests do not meet together until the day the Son of God comes to bless the elect.
2. He comes to proclaim our pardon, and to pronounce the sentence of our acquittance juridically in court, as judge upon the throne. Our pardon is passed and sealed as to conscience, then he will blot out all our sins; therefore it is said, Acts iii. 19, ‘ That your iniquities may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.’ He comes then to comfort and refresh the souls of the saints, by proclaiming their pardon in the ears of all the world. To whomsoever the throne of Christ is terrible, it should not be terrible to the saints: if he comes as a judge to them, he comes to acquit them upon the throne; he means no trouble to them.
3. He comes to crown us. Certainly there is a longing for this day and coming; for what is his work? He comes to crown the saints: 2 Tim. iv. 8, ‘Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.’ Then he comes to put the crown of righteousness upon our heads, and invest us with all the fruits of his purchase; then the godly Christian comes to have his crown: 1 Pet. v. 4, ‘When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory, that fadeth not away.’ He that hath been careful to honour God in his relation, then the great Shepherd comes to put the crown of glory, which fades not away, upon his head.
Are the children of God always in this frame, as to desire his coming? Many tremble at the thoughts of it, and can have no comfort, for want of assurance of God’s love; and many times the saints do not feel such inclinations, and such ardent and strong desires. I answer: –
1. The meanest saint hath some inclination this way; he cannot but desire Christ should come into his heart and bless him, in turning him from his sins; and that he should come to judgment, since comfort and reward is more naturally embraced than duty. Whoever is begotten to God, is ‘begotten to a lively hope,’ 1 Pet. i. 3; his heart is carried this way, though not with so much strength and lively motions as others are. Yet I grant,
2. Sometimes there may be a drowsiness and indisposition, when their lamps are not burning, when they are grown careless and fallen asleep; as the wise virgins slept, as well as the foolish, by a sluggish security. And the saints may find themselves indisposed, possibly by the remission of their watchfulness; they may contract an indisposition, yet there is a spirit stirring this way, which begins with the new birth, and still continues, though it doth not always alike put forth itself. A wife desires her husband’s coming home, yet it may be all is not in such good order. Now, all Christians desire the coming of Christ; but they are not so watchful, therefore are not so lively. Security brings deadness, until God awakens them by some sharp affliction. The needle that is touched with the loadstone yet may a little be discomposed and turned aside, but it settles again. This is the right posture and frame of a gracious soul, to be thus earnestly bent and carried out after the coming of Christ.
3. I answer again: The church doth really and heartily desire this coming, though they may tremble at some circumstances of it. When we think of this great day, and of the book that shall be opened, and the impartial proceedings, there is some degree of bondage still left in the saints, that doth a little weaken their confidence and boldness. 1 John iv. 18 we are told: ‘Perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment.’ Until our graces are perfect, there is something of fear.
Use 1. To reprove those that do not desire the coming of Christ, but put off the thoughts of it. Why? Because it casts a damp upon their fleshly rejoicing; which put far away the day of the Lord, the evil day; it is so to them: Amos vi. 3. They wish it would never come, and would be glad in their hearts to hear such news. Why? For Christ’s coming is their torment and burden; they look upon it as a day of vengeance and an evil day, therefore are loth to entertain the thought of it. Saith Austin, ‘Canst thou pray that the kingdom of God may come, when thou art afraid the kingdom of God should come?’ A carnal man cannot say the Lord’s Prayer without being afraid; they tremble at the remembrance of it; they are afraid it should be true, and afraid to be heard. If it might go by their voice, Christ should never come. The voice of corrupt nature is, ‘Depart from us;’ and what can the Almighty do for them? Job xxii. 17. Or if they do desire it, it is but in a slight, formal manner; as those in the prophet that would see the day of the Lord, yet they could not bear it: Amos v.18, Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord; to what end is it for you? The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light. They little consider what they are doing, and what is their danger, when they are making such a prayer to God, ‘Thy kingdom come.’
Use 2. For trial. How are you affected towards the coming of Christ? Are you carried out with such an inclination and bent of heart, as the day of your perfection, and the day of your solemn enjoyment of God, requireth? Is the bent of your heart carried out to things to come? If there be looking, then there would: –
1. Be a preparing. A man that expects and desires the coming of a great person to his house will make all things ready, is careful to furnish himself; when all is sluttish and nasty, and nothing of provision, do you look for your guest? What have you done as to the day of Christ s coming? Have you judged yourselves? 1 Cor. xi. 31, ‘If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. Have you ever seriously passed sentence upon yourselves, according to the law, that you may be found in Christ? Rom. viii. 1, ‘There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ.’ That you may have Christ’s righteousness to bear you out in that day against Christ’s judgment? Are you so as you would be found in him? Do you ‘live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world?’ Strict walking is a preparing and providing for this day; you do but provide for terror when you give way to sin: 2 Pet. iii. 10, 11, The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; therefore what manner of persons should ye be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God? We should be trimming up our lamps.
2. What kind of entertainment do you give to Christ now? Do you entertain him for the present into your hearts, in his ordinances? A woman that never cares to hear from her husband, doth she long for his corning? Oh, be careful now to get Christ into your hearts! 3. What doth this expectation produce? what revivings in the fore-thoughts of it? John viii. 56, ‘Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.’ He means the day of his incarnation, the day of his abode in the world. Abraham foresaw, by the eagle eye of his faith, through all mists, clouds, veils, and ceremonies; he got a sight of Christ’s day, and it did him good at heart. Do the apprehensions of it make your hearts spring and leap within you for joy? What groanings longings, what dealing with God about it doth it produce? Rom. viii. 19, ‘For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.’ What support and strength doth it give you against the burdens and sorrows of this present life, to remember Christ will come?
Use 3. To press us to this sweet affection and disposition of the saints. I might mention the profit of it; this longing, looking, and waiting for the coming of Christ, it will make us heavenly in our conversation. Christ is there: where should we converse most but where Christ is? And it makes us faithful in improving our talents: ‘Our Lord will come, and reckon with his servants,’ Luke xix. 15.