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fion amongst the Christians of those Times, that the World should not continue so long as we who are now alive, see it has done; but they expected that our Saviour Christ would come fooner to Judgment, to rescue his. Disciples, and Saints, from the Persecutions under which they fuffered; And this is the less to be wondered at, when we consider that it is natural for Men, who are afflicted, to desire and hope for a speedy Deliverance ; especially when they are afflicted for Truth, and Innocence, and Righteousness-Sake. But that was not all ; the Expectation seemed to be favoured by many Texts and Promises of the Gospel. As ye bave
36. 37. need of Patience, that after ye have done the Will of God, ye might receive the Promise. For yet a little while, and be that shall come, will come, and will not tarry. Be ye alfo patient, St. James stablish your Hearts ; for the coming of the 5.8, 9. Lord draweth nigh. And again, Behold the Judge ftandeth before the Door. Behold I come Rev.22.7 quickly : Blessed is he that keepeth the Sayings of the Prophecy of this Book, with many more of the like Importance. Now that they were mistaken in this Belief, and Expectation, is neither any Reflexion at all upon their Piety, nor Disparagement to their Wisdom
since though we acknowledge them to be holy Men, yet we do not believe them to be Omniscient, and Infallible, since we are assured, that the Time of his coming was kept secret from the Angels in Heaven, nay from Christ himself, at least according to his human Nature, and
Tark 13. Capacity. But of that Day and Hour knowerb
no Man; no not the Angels which are in Heaven, nor the Son but the Father. So that being the speedy coming of our Lord to Judge ment, was a Thing piously credible to those early and persecuted Saints; being it was an Innocent and Inculpable Piece of ignorance ; being it was a very proper. Confolation, tó support their Conftancy, and to engage them to bear the Cross with Patience, the Prolongation of their Deliverance might : administer Occasion of Doubt and Question concerning Christ's coming to Judgment ; neither is that all.
This Opinion of theirs had another Ground; it seems to have been propagated, and induftriously made use of by the Hereticks of those Times, to unsettle the Faith of Christians, as to the Do&rines of the Resurrection, and future Judgment. This St. Paul mentions,
Now we beseech you Brethren, by the coming Theff. 1.
of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him; that ye be not soon Maken in Mind, or be troubled ; neither by Spirit, nor by Word, nor by Letter, as from us, as that the Day of Christ is at Hand. Let no Man deceive you by any Means ; for that Day Mall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that Man of Sin be revealed the Son of Perdition What that Apostacy, or falling away is, and who that Man of Sin, and Son of Perdition, I profess my self to be ignorant ; nor can I cer, tainly learn it from any Expositors. But this is
plain, that the Apostle cautions them against the Opinion that the Day of Christ is at hand, as an Heretical Artifice to shake their Stedfastness; that they should not be moved by it, though it was set off with the fair Pretence of having received it from the Spirit of Revelation and Prophecy ; be not troubled, neither by Spirit, or by Oral Tradition from bim, nor by Word, as from us ; for that Day ball not come, except there come a falling away first
. Whichí suppose must mean some very remarkable Sign of his coming. This may be sufficient to shew what might give Occasion to such a Doubt and Question amongst the Christians concerning the coming of Chrift. I proceed now to the Second Thing proposed under this Head, viz.
2. To shew the Groundlesness of it, which I shall endeavour to do in the following Particulars.
First, Because most of those Texts of Scripture which are applied that way, are fairly capable of another Sense and Meaning, viz. to signify the coming of Christ, in the Destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Nation. In this Sense, I believe the greatest part of the Twenty Fourth Chapter of St. Matthew is to be understood , for tho' both the Day of Judgment, and the Destruction of Jerusalem, are there described ; yet the Destruction of Jerusalem is made the Type and Representation of the Day of Judgment. Know that it is near, even at the Doors. verses 33. Verily I say unto you this Generation shall not 34..
pass, till all these Things be fulfilled. i.e. till they are accomplished in the Destruction of Jerufalem. Which (according to Eufebius) came to pass Forty Years after. In the fame Senfe, I presume, these other Scriptures muft be understood, as in the sth of St. James 5.6. where speaking to the Jews, he says, Te bave lived in Pleasure on the Earth, and been wanton ; ye bave condemned, and killed the Juft. But speaking to the Chriftians, he says; Be patient therefore, Brethren, unto the coming of ibe Lord; fta
blish your Hearts, for the coming of the Lord i drametb nighand elsewhere. Let your Moderation be known unto alt Men; the Lord is at band. The Meaning is, “ Ye unbelieving « Jews, you have filled up the Measure of your Iniquity, in killing the Prophets
, and Saints ce of God a and Christ is now coming to take
Vengeance of you. But ye Christians, let “ all Men see by your Meekness, and patient Suffering, that you believe thefé Predi&ti
ons, which have been delivered to you from © Christ, that he is nigh at hand; And tho*
properly the End of all Things will not be “ till the last Day; yet this notable Providence " in the sudden destruction of Jerusalem, may
be a good Stay to your Minds, that he will “ also appear a second time unto Salvation. 'I fhall shut up this particular, with the Observation of Grotius in this Matter. Solent Sanéti Scriptores eafdem firmé Voces Ufurpare de univerfali judicio ac de judicio in Populum judaicum, quod boc illius fit Imago e Arrbabo. i.e.
The Holy Writers are wont to use the same Words, to express the general Judgment which they do to express the Destruction of the Jews, because that is the Image and Pledge of the other. os
Secondly, The Groundlesness of such a Doubt will further appear, if we consider that many of those Texts of Scripture do not ex press the Suddenness, but the. Certainty of Christ's coming. Thus in the Tenth to the Hebrèves and 36 Verse, Whereas it it said, re bave need of Patience, that sye may receive the Promise 5 før be that shall come, will come, and will not tarr; The Meaning is no more than this. You may depend upon his Promise, certainly, and without all doubt he will come: For the Words are taken out of the Second Chapter of the Prophet Habakkuk, and there is a plain Hebraism in them in which Language there is nothing more common than to use an Ingemination, or repeating the same Word over again, when they would express a Thing with the
greater Vehemency and Assurance. Examples of this, are frequent in the Old-Testament. Thus, when God told the Israelites that he had seen what they had done in Egypt, the Septuagint render it. Surely I have visited you. But Exod. 30. the Hebrero, Visiting, I have visited you ;-and in the 11th Psalm, I have waited patiently for the Lord, it is, Waiting, I have waited: And in the 61 of Isaiah, I bave greatly rejoiced in God; it is Rejoicing, I bave rejoiced : And in these Words of the Prophet Habakkuk; He