« PreviousContinue »
Seventhly, what an apparent disadvantage should Seventh Conse* this be to the blessed souls of the Saints departed, to quent. A disbe fetched down from heaven, where they are in per- thes
advantage to fect bliss, to spend a thousand years upon earth, ere Saints in hea the consummation of their glory? to change the com- ven, to be pany of angels for men, heaven for carth?
fetched down To which inain and choking objection, there is wont to the earth. to be offered a double solution.
First *, were those departed souls in the highest heaven, yet it becomes them, as the angels do, to come down to serve the Saints; and, with Lazarus's spirit, to return to their bodies again, at the commandment of Christ. True: all creatures owe their obedience to their Maker and Redeemer; and, the more holy they are, the more ready still they are to pay this tribute of their humble obsequiousness to the will of their God, which is the supreme law, without all pleas of their own inconveniences : but, in this case, where shall we find any such command? where the least signification of the divine pleasure ? Surely should be bid any of them glide down to the dreadful regions of hell itself, he would not stick at the condition; but as soon shall they find the Almighty's charge for the one, as for the other.
Secondly t, they say, it is likely the souls of the dead Saints are not in the highest heaven; but in a middle place, better than this world, but inferior to the Imperial Heaven, which is meant in the New Testament by Paradise.
Wherein, ceriainly, Mr. Archer hath shot strangely wide; both for the name and the place. Here can be no thought of the terrestrial paradise, as Epiphanius weakly imagined; which, doubtless, was long since defaced by the deluge. That the celestial pa. radise, then, should either be called or be a lower place than the highest heaven, is no other than a gross misprision. I appeal to the blessed Apostle, who was rapt up thither: who tells us, that the man he knew, was caught up to the third heaven; 2 Cor. xii. 2: and, straight, as describing paradise, for some more eminent part in that highest heaven, he adds, that he, the same man, was caught into pa. radise, and heard unspeakable words ; v. 4: where that we shall not need to imagine a double rapture of St. Paul, as some of the Fa. thers out of this place have done, it seems clear, that, contrary to this author's assertion, the Paradise of the New Testament is the highest and most glorious place of the Imperial Heaven; which must certainly be hence evinced, unless we will grant, either two several raptures of the Apostle, or an unnecessary and tautological repetition of one: for; having first said, I knew such a one caught in. to the third heaven, he subjoins, And I knew such a man, whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell, God knoweth, how that he was . caughi into paradise, and heard unspeakable words ; so as his taking up into paradise must needs be a farther advance of that his extatical rapture, the first rise whereof was no lower than the third hea.
ven. Add to this, that, when our Saviour said to the dying convert on the Cross, This day thou shalt be with me in paradise, he could intend no less, than a place of heavenly glory: the Thief speaks of a kingdom; our Saviour, of a paradise : the kingdom, that was spoken of, was the paradise, which was promised. To this purpose is that, which our learned Gregory observes, out of Irenæus *; who describes the receptacle of just and perfect men, to be a certain paradise in the eastern part of the third heaven; professing to receive that tradition from the disciples of the Apostles. So as this paradise, according to the best interpreters, is cæli pars nobilior et emis nentior ; "a more noble and eminent part of heaven.” And, if there may be any damage, then, or disadvantage, in the change of a place of more excellence for a ineaner, in the change of the company of blessed angels for the society of mortal men, surely it lies strongly against this opinion, which fetcheth the Saints down from the fruition of a heavenly glory to the government of the earth. But, who told this author, that the souls of the departed Saints are only v Tpobúpols, as some ancients have expressed it? in some "outer porch" belonging to the court of heaven; and not in the inner rooms of those glorious mansions? in a place, wherein they have full joy and perfect happiness, yet not where Christ's body is? and that, in this place, they are kept till this kingdom of Christ come? We are sure we hear our Saviour say, Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold the glory, which thou hast giyen me; John xvii. 24: and, in his last Sacramen. tal Banquet with his Disciples, we hear him say, I will drink no more of this fruit of the vine, till I drink it new with you in my Fa. ther's kingdom: we are sure we hear the Chosen Vessel, who had viewed those heavenly palaces, say, IVe know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens ; 2 Cor. v. 1: lo, in the heavens, not beneath them; and that immediately upon the dissolution of this earthly tabernacle, not three thousand years after it; and more than so long it must be by their rule, ere the Apostles can be admitted into heaven: a thousand six hundred years are already passed, and yet the Thousand Years' Reign is not begun : a thousand years after that must pass, ere the end of the Last Judgment, which shall enter them into the possession of their heaven. But a full confutation of any incident passages is no part of my intention: otherwise, I should willingly fall upon the discussion of those Scriptures, which are strained to the defence of that assertion; whereof yet there would be the less need, for that the argument holds strongly enough, even upon their own concessions: for, if that paradise, which they imagine to themselves, be, though not the third heaven, yet a place of perfect joy and happiness, certainly, the exchange of it, during those thousands of years, for so base and dun. geon-like a habitation in this lower world, must needs be greatly disadvantageous.
* Greg. Observat. Iran, advers. Hæres. 1. v. c. 5.
But if not in the highest heaven, where will he think to place his Paradise ? Surely, saith this Author, in the element of fire.
A strange soil, wherein to plant a blissful Paradise! But what if there be no element of fire? Such tenets, surely, the Schools afford. ed our younger days. Some Patricius would tell him, that if there be an excess of heat in those upper regions, under the concave of the moon; yet it is neither fire, nor elemental. But if, upon some new principles, he shall make the substance of the starry heaven (which we had wont to call quintessential) to be the element of fre, I shall choose rather to wonder at that strange philosophy, than to wrangle about it; wishing that it were no more unsafe to broach our own singular imaginations in these points of Divinity, than in these harmless speculations of Nature.
However it be, whether either of them may be the receptacle of the departed souls of the faithful till Christ's next coming, it is too much curiosity to inquire, and no less presumption to de termine. Sure we are, and it is agreed on all hands, that, immediately upon their freeing from this clog of earth, they are in peace * and unspeakable happiness, whether in a local or virtual heaven : neither need we doubt to say, that the full complement of their glory shall be in that great day, when their old consorts, their bo. dies, shall be joined with them in the partnership of their consummate blessedness.
Eighthly, how ill is it contrived to match such con- Eighth Consetrarieties in the same subject! The children of the quent. Chile
u dren of the Saints, who are the free subjects of this kingdom, shall s be begotten in sin, conceived and born in sin; and yet ceived and be true Saints: as if only gross actual sins, from which born in sin, they shall be restrained, were inconsistent with holi- yet still Saints, ness. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? saith Job: ch. xiv. 4. If, then, they be pretended to be true Saints, why are they not cleared from all sin whatsoever? unless we will bring in the justly-exploded distinction of sins venial and mortal, sins besides not against the Law; and shall free concupiscence from the taint of sin; and so shall, in the new kingdom, find out sinning Saints, or holy sinners. And how insufficiently is it pleaded, that there can be no hypocrites in this kingdom; for that, it being administered by the raised Saints, they cannot possibly pass undiscerned by so piercing eyes! as if those sharp eyes of the raised Saints could penetrate the bosoms of men, and look into the heart, which the Maker of it hath locked up for his own only search and jotuition.
Ninthly, it suits not over well, that the subjects of Ninth Conse. this kingdom shall not converse with God by Ordi- quent. No use nances; and yet that they shall have a full and perfect of Ordinances, answer from God, to all their prayers : since it cannot yet i
i heard. P. 29. be denied, that prayer is none of the meanest Ordi." nances of the Almighty.
ne Tenthly, upon this first resurrection of all Saints at quent. Hea- the next coming of Christ, how hard and harsh a conven dispeopled sequent must it needs seem, that heaven or (as he will of all the an- have it) paradise shall be, for two thousand years at cene glorious the least, dispeopled of all their-ancient and glorious inhabitantsfor,
d'inhabitants, the souls of God's Saints, which have de. years. parted from the beginning of the world, to the rery
instant of our Saviour's retun: all which are, for that time, housed again with their raised bodies upon earth ; and there continued upon the employment of their kingly administration ! Eleventh Con
och Con. Eleventhly, how incongruous doth it justly seem, sequent.'
that the souls of God's Saints, after their first dissolu
tion, should be in so various, different, and unequal condition, as that some of them should be ruling on earth, cloathed with their bodies; while others, which departed after Corist's coming down), should, as new guests, be triumphing in licaven! Tialfth con. Twelfthly, how can it accord with that, which the sequent.
Apostle hath taught us, concerning the last coming of
Christ to judgment, Them also, which sleep in Jesus, will the Lord bring with him; 1 Thes. iv, 14. if the Saints shall be found all on the earth before him; as being raised by him at his second coming, to reign here below till his return to the final judgment of the world?
These and many other absurd inferences may be brought, as ne. cessarily following upon the, doctrine of this first resurrection and reign of all Saints; if I did not fear to cloy my reader, with distasteful superfluities. The opinion of But, perhaps, I may meet with some of our Millethe First Re-' narian Brethren, who, disclaiming this more common surrection of opinion of the raising and reigning of all the Saints, only Martyrs will choose rather to adhere to the conceit of Alstedius
ble and his complices, who appropriate this privilege of the first resurrection and Thousand Years' Reign to Martyrs only; as the first fruits unto God; as purchased, by a particular prerogative, from among men. For which purpose, they think fit to interpret that, i Thes. iv. 14. Those, that sleep in Jesus ; by a strained construction of the preposition: “ Those, that sleep for the sake * of Jesus."
Wherein, certainly, they are not well advised; and will find themselves strongly confuted, out of the very scope and context of the place. It was the Apostle's drift there, to comfort his Thessalonians; and to mitigate their extreme sorrow for the death of those, which were dear unto them: whose decease he terms a sleep. Can they think they grieved for the parting only from their martyred friends ? or did none but they sleep? The word is first general and absolute, ere it be restrained by any preposition; and, in the sequel, those, which are asleep, are contra-distinguished to those, that are
live and remain unto the coming of the Lord: so as all the faithful, which died before, are those that are asleep in Jesus.
Neither can their interpretation find any relief from Rev. xiv. 13.
it, “ for the Lord :" the next words refel it; for they rest froin their labours, and their works follow them. Do none. but Martyrs find rest from their labours in death? do none else find the happy re. ward of their works?
And, well may their opposers say, We find not the four and twenty elders, which sat cloathed with white raiment, and with crowns of gold on their heads, to have been Martyrs; and yet we hear them say, Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shull reign upon earth ; Rev. iv. 4. y. 10.
Indeed, if there shall be any reign of the Saints on earth at all for those thousand years, Alstedius is sure too strait-laced to restrain this honour to Martyrs only. How many thousands of Saints have there been, that have been no less holy, and won no less honour to God in their stations, than those, which have bled for him? What shall we say to Abrahain, the Father of the Faithful? to him, that wrestled with God, and prevailed? to the rest of the holy Patriarchs ? to Moses, the man of God, that conversed so familiarly with the Almighty? to Elias, that was rapt up to heaven? and to all the other holy Prophets ? to the blessed Apostles ? to the laborious Planters of the Evangelical Churches amongst Pagans ? to those painful Preachers of the Gospel, which have willingly wasted themselves to give light unto others ? Shall we suppose that they shall lie still in the dust, while one sudden stroke of an axe shall advance those other to the prevented resurrection of a thousand years ?
Besides, if he will needs be literal, how much lower must the restriction yet fall! I saw, saith St. John, the souls of them that were beheaded, for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God; and which had not worshipped the beast, nor his image; neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
For, how many thousands have suffered martyrdom for good causes before the beast was bred, or his image, or his marks heard of; or before Christ came in the flesh! Such was the righteous Abel, the Proto-Martyr of the world. Such were the fourscore and five persons, that wore a linen ephod, murdered by the command of Saul *. Such was Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, slain by the command of Joash f. Such were those many thousands of God's people, that were massacred under the tyranny of Antiochus. Neither doubt I to say, that whosoever he be, that suffers for the testimony of a good conscience, because he dares not violate any one of the moral laws of God, is as true a Martyr, as he, that dies for the main. tenance of any of the Twelve Articles of his Creed.
Besides, our histories tells us f of some very Arians and other he. retics, that have yet given their lives up to heathen persecutors for ,* i Sam. xxii, 18. + 2 Chr. xxiv. 21. Socrat. Hist. Eccl. 1. iv. c. 27.