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he referreth to himself as the same who had borne, amongst the Christians, witness to the WORD of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ. And moreover, it seems to me to agree with the custom of the apostolic writings, when they make mention of themselves, as in Paul's Epistles, Peter's, Jude's, and James's ; in all which they give a designation of their identity, according to some distinction and well-known characteristic: and altogether it gives the best sense of verse 2, to understand it as fixing the identity of John to whom the book was given, with that John who delivered and defended the doctrine that Jesus of Nazareth was the WORD of God, and the Lord Christ.
And with this I conclude the second head of discourse, in which I have shewn some very important things concerning the authorship of this book, and various weighty grounds, on account of which it ought to have authority
It hath its origin from God, and may be expected to contain the fulness of his mind, the completeness of his purpose, the consummation of his end, the establishment of his long-delayed and long-marred glory. From God it cometh as a gift unto Christ, after he hath raised him from the dead, and signified his pleasure that in him all fulness should dwell: of high price, therefore, we may well believe it; a gift of no ungenerous or poor personage, but of the inexhaustible and bountiful God; a gift to no secondary or inferior personage, but to Him whom he hath delighted to honour and exalt to the right hand of his throne in the heavens. It concerneth the exaltation of His Son, and is conferred with the single object of discovering that excellent glory in which he shall yet come arrayed, those surpassing
wonders beyond creation and beyond incarnation, by which he is to gather all: things up unto Him as the Head, and there to uphold them for ever in infallible blessedness. Oh! what composition may we expect to be in it, when God is the author and Christ the subject. It is brought to us by the intervention of the church in glory, who receive it from Christ, to communicate and convey unto the church on earth ; and being from our Head, and through our brethren now in bliss, what affection it cometh redolent withal, and what love, what reverence, what delight, should it bring to us, who
are thus honoured with that with which God honoured his Christ. How welcome, oh, how welcome should we make this book of highest original, far borne from the secret of the abysmal will of God, presented to our Lord as worthy of his resurrection-honour, and instantly by him shared with his body, both that which is within and that which is without the veil! And methinks it should add to these glorious qualities one of a very tender and endearing kind, that it comes through that disciple whom most our Jesus loved, was given to him in his comfortless exile, visited his eyes in his lonely prison, and made it the most gladsome and most honourable spot in the wide world. Wherein perhaps is contained an emblem of that consolation in distress, with which this book hath ever irradiated the dark and gloomy days of the church; and with which, if I err not, it shall ere long irradiate our night ; proving to us “ as a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise on our hearts.” These high and holy considerations, by which this book hath a claim upon our reverence and veneration, will be multiplied manifold, when we shall have considered, in the third place,
III. The substance, or subject-matter, and method of the book. Under the first head of discourse, when treating of the name of this book, we discovered that the words by which its name or title is expressed, are in other parts of Scripture translated “the coming, or the appearing, or the manifestation, or the revelation of Jesus Christ;" an event which no one can mistake, or by any ingenuity turn aside from that appearing again of Christ, which all believe in, but so few are waiting for. Adhering to the use and word of Scripture, we have no doubt in laying it down as certain, that the substance of this book is the second coming of Christ: an event in which the primitive church took the deepest interest; whose very intensity was apt to pass over into painfulness and astonishment and consternation. Most wise therefore was it, and most considerate, and most worthy of God's goodness and grace, to take measures to inform his church more particularly, concerning that blessed event on which they hung expectant with a breathless desire. And because the Father doeth nothing but by the Son, he first gives
it to the Son, and leaves him how he may to communicate it to his church in heaven and on earth. Being communicated to the church in heaven, he useth their instrumentality to communicate it to the church on earth, through the medium of John, whom, however, he urgeth and requireth to write it in a book, and send it forth to all the Christian churches. To us, indeed, who make as little account of Christ's coming again as if it were not to be, and better that it should not be, it must appear a very strange thing indeed that a book should be written to ad. vertise the church concerning the succession and progress of events leading on thereto, and terminating therein; but to the primitive church, who were of another mood, it was all in all to be informed and enlightened in this matter. But, because the enemies and opposers of his second coming will be ever alleging that there is little mention thereof in the New Testament Scriptures, I count it good, for their confusion, and for the justification of the truth, and for the demonstration of this book's importance, to take up some apostolic writing, as it were at random, and to shew how constantly this theme is introduced, and with what circumstances of dignity and importance entreated. Let it be the Epistles to the Thessalonians, where I find it (1 Thess. i. 9) put forth upon the same level with the worshipping of God, as if these were the two great divisions of a Christian's duty: “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (i. 9, 10.) Next I find it looked forward to by the Apostle himself, as the time at which he with his converts were to receive their crown: “ For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ? are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy” (ii. 19, 20). Next I do find it looked unto and desired as the time at which all fallibility shall be abolished, and all spot and wrinkle done away with from the members of Christ; when all anxiety shall cease, and all stability and blessedness be perfected: “ And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another,
and toward all men, even as we do toward you : to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (iii. 12, 13). Next I find the hope of it used as the means of comforting the church under the loss of her members removed by death : “ But I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first : then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words ” (iv. 13-18). And again, v. 23, I find it preached as the great consummation of holiness, and the perfection of devotedness unto God. On all which accounts, methinks, it ought still to be as desirable now as it was then. But, lest the gainsayer, whose ears are as cold as death to any word or argument about the second coming of the Lord, and whose tongue is bold enough to assert any thing, should assert that this Epistle is peculiar in that respect, I go on to weed out from the next Epistle also those weeds which are so obnoxious in their sight,-in mine, blessed as the tree of life. Lo! the whole of the first chapter is taken up with it, presenting us with Christ's coming to the death and destruction the overthrow and overwhelming of all antichristian and ungodly men; and their separation from his presence by swift and fiery judgment, at the time that he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe : " Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you: and to you who are troubled, rest with us; when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ : who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day” (i. 6—10). And again, lo, the whole of the second chapter is taken up with the same obnoxious subject ; being a regular didactic discourse concerning the progress and success of Antichrist until the day of Christ's appearing to consume him with the breath of his mouth, and to destroy him with the brightness of his coming : “ That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means : for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.... And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming ” (ii. 2, 3, 8). After this, I think, our loud railers against, and most taciturn expounders of, the doctrine of Christ's second coming, should no longer pervert the church with the falsehood that this is only a secondary and not a primary doctrine of the Christian faith. These passages may also shew us how strong a hold the hope had of the minds of the first Christians; and how safe and kind and profitable it was that they should be more largely informed upon the point, and have a scheme of those signs which shall usher it in. To give them this information I believe to be the main object of this book; and not to them only, but to all of us who love and desire his appearing.
While I regard this as the main object of the book, a little reflection will convince us that to attain this object much method is needed. The coming of Christ was at the distance of many ages, and it is the purpose of God to keep it in the expectation of every Christian of every age. And how is this to be done ? how is attention to be kept alive? how is long delayed hope and desire to be kept from fainting? The chief means to this great end, and what God would have all to use, is the uncertainty, the impenetrable cloud of uncertainty, which is expressly hung