The Penitent Pardoned, pp 172-180.
In treating of the doctrine of Christ’s coming again, the other query is this, how or after what manner shall this coming of Christ be? But I will come again.
Now in the resolving of this question, I shall confine my answers to these six particulars.
1. He shall come certainly.
2. He shall come personally.
3. He shall come visibly.
4. He shall come gloriously.
5. He shall come terribly.
6. He shall come unexpectedly.
The Certainty of Christ’s Coming.
First, the Lord Jesus shall come certainly, Christ’s coming is not to be numbered among poetical fictions, or with the delusion of Mahomet, the certainty of Christ’s coming again is built on these three foundations.
1. It is built on the immutability of God’s decree, Acts 17. 31. Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. The immutability of God’s decree doth prove the certainty of Christ’s coming, God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world.
2. The certainty doth stand upon the infallibility of Christ’s promise, Mat. 26. 64. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said, nevertheless I say unto you, hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of Heaven, there is Christ’s promise, to which three of the Evangelists do concur.
3. The certainty of his coming is grounded upon the impartiality of his justice, here every man hath not right, and in Solomon’s, phrase, a just man perisheth in his uprightness, and a wicked man prolongeth his days in wickedness; therefore to shew God’s impartiality; there must be a coming of the Son of Man to judge the world righteously. The doctrine of Christ’s coming is impugned by Atheists, therefore you read what Peter tells you, 2 Peter 3. 3, 4. Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts and saying, where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. And we read of the men of Athens, they questioned this, and would not believe this, For Christ coming to judge the world, Acts 17. 32. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, and others said, we will hear thee again of this matter. Of old time, in the times of Jesus Christ or soon after, men did mock at this doctrine, that the dead shall rise, and Christ should come to judge both the quick and the dead; Herein Gerrard, reckons up abundance of Sects, as the Floriani, the Dosithiani, the Symmachiani, and many others: Indeed there is one Scripture that these Atheists do abuse in making it to deny the coming of Christ to judgement, John 8. 15. Ye judge after the flesh, I judge no man.
But Beloved, to this text that they make use of, to shake this great pillar of our hopes, the coming of Christ again, take these two answers, when Christ saith, I judge no man, that is, I judge no man with a rash and heady judgement, as you judge men that are not of your opinion, you judge things rashly and inconsiderately, but I judge no man as you do, so Augustine, in his 36th Tract on John, gives it to be the sense of the place, it doth not exclude Christ from judging the world at the last day, but from judging of men as the Pharisees, to wit, rashly and inconsiderately.
Secondly, Christ doth here speak, what was not the end of his first coming in the flesh, but the end of his second coming was to judge all men, but I judge no man, that is, it was not the intent or the end of my first coming in the flesh to judge men, John 3. When God sent his Son to be born of a Virgin, he did not send him to judge the world, but to save the world, he reserved his judging of the world till his last coming. John 12. 47, 48. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not, for I come not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him, the words that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. The end of my first coming was not to judge, it was to be judged; and to be condemned by Pontius Pilate, and to die the cursed death. And that is the end of Christ’s first coming, that is the first particular, he shall come certainly.
Christ Shall Come Personally.
Christ shall not only come certainly, but he shall come personally; It was the great mistake of Origen, though he holds for the coming of Christ again, that he pleads for the coming of Christ in spirit, therefore that text where it is said, you shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven, Origen understands by the clouds, to be the Saints, because it is mentioned in Scripture, that the believers are called a cloud of witnesses. Now this is to pervert the whole letter of the Bible, and turn all the Scripture into an allegory and metaphorical sense. Now in opposition of that, I lay down a second property, that Christ’s coming shall be a personal coming out of Heaven, but the Scripture doth not speak of Christ’s coming on the Earth, but no further than the air, Christ in his body shall come personally out of Heaven. Now to prove this second property, or second manner or way of Christ’s coming, there are two texts of Scripture to confirm it. 1 Thess. 4. 17. 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, vers. 16. For the Lord himself shall descend with a shout from Heaven, &c. If it had been Christ in his spirit, then it would have been said, the Lord by his spirit shall descend, But the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, it notes his personal coming out of Heaven, that whereas Jesus Christ had a personal translation, and as Christ had a visible elevation, he was in the eyes of his disciples lifted up, so Christ shall bodily descend and come out from Heaven, the Lord himself, &c. Therefore it cannot be the Lord by his spirit, Acts 1. 11. Which also said, ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen him go into Heaven. The same Jesus that you saw ascend, shall descend, so that it cannot be Christ in his spirit, but in his person. I only mention this to confute those that follow the conceit of Origen, merely to make Christ’s coming to be but a spiritual coming, a coming in the hearts of Saints.
Christ’s Coming Shall Be Visible.
His coming it shall be visibly, Acts 1. 11. This same Jesus which is taken up from you into Heaven shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen him go into Heaven. That as Christ’s going up to Heaven bodily was visible, so Christ’s coming out of Heaven shall be visible Mat. 26. 64. Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds. Indeed Christ did rise invisibly, for no man saw Christ rise from the dead, but Christ shall descend visibly, you shall see the Son of Man, &c. Mat. 24. 30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the Earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory. All men shall see the glory of Jesus Christ, the wicked shall see him to their amazement and consternation, and the godly shall see him to their joy and consolation.
Christ’s Coming Shall Be Glorious.
Christ’s coming shall be glorious, and there shall be many things that shall make the coming of Christ to be a glorious coming, he shall come in the clouds, these glorious bodies shall be the triumphant and swift chariots of the Son of God, wherein he will come to judge the world; and his attendance shall make him glorious, Daniel 7. 10. A fiery stream issued, and came forth from before him, thousand thousands ministered unto him; and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him, the judgement was set, and the books where opened, Jude 14. and Enoch also the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his Saints. And in 2 Thess. 1. 7. And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven, with his mighty Angels. O then behold the clouds to be the triumphant chariots of Christ, the innumerable company of Saints and Angels to be attendants on the person of Christ to come to judge the world, and that is the reason that he is called so glorious, Mat. 24. 30. And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven, with power and great glory. Mat. 16. 27. For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father with his Angels. Luk. 9. 26. For whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, & in his Father’s, and of the Holy Angels. And that is the reason of that epithet given to Christ’s coming Titus 2. 13. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Now beloved, Christ’s coming to have this property or this manner, the reason must be to distinguish his second coming from his first coming; to take off the contempt and reproach that was on Jesus Christ in his first coming, and he shall come in glory in the second coming.
First, we read in Scripture, that Christ’s first coming it was in the form of a servant, Phil. 2. 7. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. Now in the second coming, he comes with that glory and Majesty of a King. In the first coming, he had no reasonable creature to attend him, at the second coming he shall have all the Saints and Angels in Heaven to attend him. At his first coming he was swaddled with swaddling bands, but at this second coming he shall be as it were clothed with the clouds of Heaven.
Again, his first coming it was in dishonour and contempt, every traveller had more honour than Jesus Christ, for the Inn was for every traveller, but there was no room for Christ there, he was born in an outhouse; but his second coming shall be in great glory.
Again, in his first coming, Christ representing the persons of the Elect came with sin imputed to him, and was the greatest beggar in the world, as Luther saith and the greatest sinner in the world, not by way of inherence but by way of imputation; therefore Luther calleth him Peccator maximus, the greatest sinner: Christ in coming into the the world, had all the sins of the Elect of God imputed to him; so he came as a sinner, as an evil person, though he was not so, yet he was looked upon as so; But the second time, he shall come without sin, he shall not have our sins by imputation cast on him, because when he comes again he shall make a total abolition of sin; Therefore, there needs no imputation of our sins upon Jesus Christ. Thus you have a fourth way of his coming, he shall come Gloriously.
Christ Shall Come Terribly.
A fifth way of Christ’s coming again, is this, he shall come terribly. In Isaiah 13. 9. Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the Land desolate, and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. Revel. 6. 17. For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand? The coming of Jesus Christ, it is a terrible coming, that is a fifth way of his coming.
Christ’s Coming is Unexpected.
Lastly, Christ shall come unexpectedly; though it is true, there shall be immediate warnings of his coming, as the powers of Heaven shall be shaken, the Sun, Moon, and Stars shall be darkened, but that shall be but a little before his coming: but beloved, the coming of Christ shall be when men are not aware of it, as in the days of Noah, men were eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage when the flood come and destoyed them, so shall the Son of Man come. Christ’s coming shall then be to burn all with fire, when men shall be eating and drinking, possessing, and adding muck to muck, when men are secure and never think of Christ’s coming to burn all with fire; then the powers of Heaven shall be shaken, and the world be set on fire. Hence it is that you read in Scripture in five or six places, Christ’s coming it shall be as a thief in the night; a thief will come in the dead time of the night, as Christ said to his Disciples, in Luke 21. 34. The coming of Christ it is an unexpected coming, thus you have six particulars of Christ’s coming.
Now a word of application. Having shewed you how this doctrine of Christ’s coming, it is a doctrine of comfort, I shall finish this point in shewing you how this doctrine of Christ’s coming, is a doctrine of terror and of dread, and to whom. It is observable that the word is not compared only to milk and honey, but the word is compared also to salt, which also hath an efficacy to sting. Beloved, you have heard the honey of this doctrine, what great comfort it will afford to godly men, but remember the word is salt also, and it is of a smart efficacy to terrify and fret the conscience.
Now the doctrine of Christ’s coming, it is a terrible doctrine in these four things.
To all wicked men Christ’s coming again it is a terrible doctrine, because first all the secrets sins that ever a wicked man hath committed in this world, they shall be made manifest to all. I confess it is a contest among learned men, whether the sins of good men as well as bad shall not be known, and there are strong arguments that all shall be made known, but the Scripture is full in this, that at the day of judgement, the sins that a wicked man hath done in this world, shall be published to all the Saints and Angels in Heaven, and all the men that were on Earth. It may be thou goest for an honest man amongst thy neighbours, yet thou lovest thy neighbours wife, and goest in unto her; if thou hast been so, or thou hast deceived in thy trade, why for all thy secrecy here, yet then all the world shall know thy deceit and uncleanness; it is built upon that text, Luk. 8. 17. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest, neither any thing hid, that shall not be known, and come abroad. Here a thousand things are hid that men do not know, here thou carriest it fairly, and squarely in the world, that men cannot say, black is thine eye; but then they may say shame to thy face; this is dreadful.
Secondly, Christ’s coming it shall be dreadful in regard of thy separation from all the Elect of God. In Mat. 25. 32. 33. And before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Here thou art mingled, it may be thou livest in the same house with a godly man, and liest in the same bed with a godly man, but remember a parting time is coming, that as the shepherd parteth the sheep from the goats, so doth Christ part the wicked from the godly.
Thirdly, Christ’s coming again it is dreadful to wicked men, in regard it shall be the time of the promulgation of thy sentence. A thief in prison is a miserable creature, a thief on trial is in a sad condition, but a thief when the sentence of death is past upon him, then he is in a hopeless condition. O thou wicked man, at thy dying day thou art a malefactor, but at thy sentence giving thou art an undone man, thou art in a hopeless condition.
Fourthly, Christ’s coming it is the time of the reuniting of thy body and soul together, and of thy taking possession of Hell: when thy body and soul that have been so many hundred years parted shall come to meet together, and your meeting to be but a going into infernal torments, this makes the coming of Christ to be a dreadful coming.
Aye, but you will say, it is true indeed, a Felix may tremble when Paul shall preach to him of judgement to come, but have we Christians cause of fear? Yes, you that are Christians, in case you be found under these particulars, that I am now naming to you, the day of judgement will be dreadful to you.