Concerning the Inhabitants of the New Earth. That Natural Reason cannot determine this point. That according to Scripture; The Sons of the first Resurrection, or the Heirs of the Millennium, are to be the Inhabitants of the New Earth. The Testimony of the Philosophers, and of the Christian Fathers, for the Renovation of the World. The first Proposition laid down.
THUS we have setled the true notion, according to Reason and Scripture, of the New Heavens and New Earth. But where are the Inhabitants, you’l say? You have taken the pains to make us a New World, and now that it is made, it must stand empty. When the first World was destroyed, there were eight persons preserv’d, with a Set of living Creatures of every kind, as a Seminary or foundation of another World: But the Fire, it seems, is more merciless than the Water; for in this destruction of the World, it does not appear that there is one living Soul left, of any sort, upon the face of the Earth. No hopes of posterity, nor of any continuation of Mankind, in the usual way of propagation. And Fire is a barren Element, that breeds no living Creatures in it, nor hath any nourishment proper for their food or sustenance.
We are perfectly at a loss, therefore, so far as I see, for a new race of Mankind, or how to people this new-form’d World. The Inhabitants, if ever there be any, must either come from Heaven, or spring from the Earth: There are but these two ways. But Natural Reason can determine neither of these: sees no tract to follow in these unbeaten paths, nor can advance one step further. Farewel then, dear Friend, I must take another Guide: and leave you here, as Moses upon Mount Pisgah, only to look into that Land, which you cannot enter. I acknowledge the good service you have done, and what a faithful Companion you have been, in a long journey; from the beginning of the World to this hour, in a tract of time
of six thousand years. We have travel’d together through the dark regions of a First and Second Chaos: seen the World twice shipwrackt. Neither Water, nor Fire, could separate us. But now you must give place to other Guides.
Welcome, Holy Scriptures, The Oracles of God, a Light shining in darkness, a Treasury of hidden knowledge, and, where humane faculties cannot reach, a seasonable help and supply to their defects. We are now come to the utmost bounds of their dominion: They have made us a New World, but, how it shall be inhabited, they cannot tell: know nothing of the History or affairs of it. This we must learn from other Masters, inspir’d with the knowledge of things to come. And such Masters we know none, but the holy Prophets and Apostles. We must therefore now put our selves wholly under their conduct and instruction, and from them only receive our information concerning the moral state of the future habitable Earth.
In the first place therefore, The Prophet IsaiahIsa. 45. 18. tells us, as a preparation to our further enquiries, The Lord God created the Heavens, God himself that formed the Earth, He created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited. This is true, both of the present Earth and the Future, and of every habitable World whatsoever. For to what purpose is it made habitable, if not to be inhabited? That would be, as if a man should manure, and plough, and every way prepare his ground for seed, but never sow it. We do not build houses that they should stand empty, but look out for Tenants as fast as we can; as soon as they are made ready, and become Tenantable. But if man could do things in vain and without use or design, yet God and Nature never do any thing in vain; much less so great a work as the making of a World. Which if it were in vain, would comprehend ten thousand vanities or useless preparations in it. We may therefore in the first place, safely conclude, That the New Earth will be inhabited.
But by whom will it be inhabited? This makes the second enquiry. St. Peter answers this question for us, and with a particular application to this very subject of the New Heavens and New Earth. They shall be inhabited, he says, by the Just or the Righteous. His words, which we cited before, are these. When he had describ’d the Conflagration of the World, he adds, But we expect new Heavens and a new Earth, WHEREIN DWELLETH RIGHTEOUSNESS. By righteousness here, it is generally agreed must be understood Righteous Persons. For Righteousness cannot be without righteous Persons: It cannot hang upon Trees, or grow out of the ground; ’Tis the endowment of reasonable Creatures. And these righteous Persons are eminently such, and therefore call’d Righteousness in the abstract, or purely righteous without mixture of Vice.
So we have found Inhabitants for the New Earth: Persons of an high and noble Character. Like those describ’d by St. Peter, (1 Epist. 2. 9.) A chosen generation, a royal Priesthood, an holy Nation, a peculiar People. As if into that World, as into St. John's New Jerusalem,Apoc. 21. 27. nothing impure or unrighteous was to be admitted. These being then the happy and holy Inhabitants: The next enquiry is, Whence do they come? From what off-spring, or from what Original? We noted before, that there was no remnant of Mankind left at the Conflagration, as there was at the Deluge: nor any hopes of a Restauration that way. Shall we then imagine that these new Inhabitants are a Colony wafted over from some
neighbouring World: as from the Moon, or Mercury, or some of the higher Planets. You may imagine what you please, but that seems to me not imaginary onely but impracticable; And that the Inhabitants of those Planets are Persons of so great accomplishments, is more than I know: but I am sure they are not the Persons here understood. For these must be such as inhabited this Earth before. WE look for new Heavens and new Earth, says the Apostle: Surely to have some share and interest in them; otherwise there would be no comfort in that expectation. And the Prophet Isaiah said before, I create new Heavens and a new Earth, and the former shall come no more into remembrance: But be YOU glad and rejoyce for ever in that which I create. The truth is, none can have so good pretensions to this spot of ground we call the Earth, as the Sons of Men, seeing they once possest it. And if it be restor’d again, ’tis their propriety and inheritance. But ’tis not Mankind in general that must possess this new World, but the Israel of God, according to the Prophet Isaiah; or the Just, according to St. Peter. And especially those that have suffer’d for the sake of their Religion. For this is that Palingenesia, as we noted before, that Renovation, or Regeneration of all things, where our Saviour says, Those, that suffer loss for his sake, shall be recompenced: Matt. 19. 28. 29.
But they must then be raised from the Dead. For all Mankind was destroy’d at the Conflagration: and there is no resource for them any other way, than by a Resurrection. ’Tis true: and St. JohnApoc. 20. gives us a fair occasion to make this supposition, That there will be some raised from the Dead, before the General Day of Judgment. For he plainly distinguisheth of a First and Second Resurrection, and makes the first to be a thousand Years before the second, and before the general Day of Judgment. Now, if there be truly and really a two-fold Resurrection, as St. John tells us; and at a thousand Years distance from one another: It may be very rationally presum’d, that Those that are raised in the first Resurrection, are those Just that will inhabit the new Heavens and new Earth. Or whom our Saviour promis’d to reward in the Renovation of the World.
For otherwise, who are those Just that shall inhabit the new Earth, and whence do they come? Or when is that Restauration which our Saviour speaks of, wherein those that suffer’d for the sake of the Gospel shall be rewarded? St. John says, the Martyrs, at this first Resurrection, shall live again and reign with Christ. Which seems to be the reward promis’d by our Saviour, to those that suffer’d for his sake: and the same Persons in both places. And I saw the Souls of them says St. John,Apoc. 20. 4. that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God: and which had not worshipped the Beast, &c. and They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. These, I say, seem to be the same Persons to whom Christ had before promis’d and appropriated a particular reward. And this reward of theirs, or this Reign of theirs, is upon Earth: upon some Earth, new or old: not in Heaven. For, besides that we read nothing of their Ascension- into Heaven after their Resurrection: There are several marks that shew it must necessarily be understood of a state upon Earth. For Gog and MagogVer. 9. came from the four quarters of the Earth, and besieged the Camp of the Saints, and the beloved City. That Camp and that City therefore were upon the Earth. And fire
came down from Heaven and devoured them. If it came down from Heaven, it came upon the Earth. Furthermore, those Persons that are rais’d from the Dead, are said to beVer. 6. Priests of God and of Christ, and to reign with him a thousand years. Now these must be the same Persons with the Priests and Kings, mention’d in the Fifth Chapter:Ver. 10. which are there said expresly to reign upon Earth, or that they should reign upon Earth. It remains therefore onely to determine, What Earth this is, where the Sons of the first Resurrection will live and reign. It cannot be the present Earth, in the same state, and under the same circumstances it is now. For what happiness or priviledge would that be, to be call’d back into a mortal life, under the necessities and inconveniences of sickly Bodies, and an incommodious World? such as the present state of mortality is, and must continue to be, till some change be made in Nature. We may be sure therefore, that a change will be made in Nature before that time, and that the state they are rais’d into, and the Earth they are to inhabit, will be, at least, Paradisiacal: And consequently can be no other than the new Heavens and new Earth, which we are to expect after the Conflagration.
From these Considerations, there is a great fairness to conclude, both as to the Characters of the Persons, and of the place or state, that the Sons of the first Resurrection, will be Inhabitants of the New Earth, and reign there with Christ a thousand years. But seeing this is one of the principal and peculiar Conclusions of this Discourse, and bears a great part in this last Book of the Theory of the Earth, it will deserve a more full explication, and a more ample proof, to make it out. We must therefore take a greater compass in our discourse, and give a full account of that State which is usually call’d the Millennium: The Reign of the Saints a thousand years, or the Kingdom of Christ upon Earth. But before we enter upon this new Subject, give me leave to close our present Argument, about the Renovation of the World, with some Testimonies of the Ancient Philosophers, to that purpose. ’Tis plain to me, that there were amongst the Ancients several Traditions, or traditionary conclusions, which they did not raise themselves, by reason and observation, but receiv’d them from an unknown Antiquity. An instance of this is the Conflagration of the World. A Doctrine, as ancient, for any thing I know, as the World it self. At least as ancient as we have any Records. And yet none of those Ancients that tell us of it, give any argument to prove it. Neither is it any wonder, for they did not invent it themselves, but receiv’d it from others without proof, by the sole authority of Tradition. In like manner the Renovation of the World, which we are now speaking of, is an ancient Doctrine: both amongst the Greeks and Eastern Philosophers: but they shew us no method how the World may be renew’d, nor make any proof of its future Renovation; For it was not a discovery which they first made, but receiv’d it, with an implicite faith, from their Masters and Ancestors. And these Traditionary Doctrines were all fore-runners of that Light that was to shine more clearly at the opening of the Christian dispensation; to give a more full account of the fate and revolutions of the Natural World, as well as of the Moral.
The Jews, ’tis well known, held the Renovation of the World, and a Sabbath after six thousand years: according to the Prophecy that was currant amongst them, whereof we have given a larger account in the precedent Book, ch. 5. And
that future state they call’d Olam Hava, or the World to come, 1 which is the very same with St. Paul's Habitable Earth to come, Heb. 2. 6. Neither can I easily believe, that those constitutions of Moses that proceed so much upon a Septenary, or the number Seven, and have no ground or reason, in the nature of the thing, for that particular number: I cannot easily believe, I say, that they are either accidental or humoursome: without design or signification. But that they are typical, or representative of some Septenary state, that does eminently deserve and bear that Character. Moses, in the History of the Creation, makes six days work, and then a Sabbath. Then, after six years, he makes a Sabbath-year: and after a Sabbath of years a year of Jubilee, Levit. 25. All these lesser revolutions seem to me to point at the grand Revolution, the great Sabbath or jubilee, after six Millenaries, which as it answers the type in point of time, so likewise in the nature and contents of it: Being a state of Rest from all labour and trouble and servitude: a state of joy and triumph: and a state of Renovation, when things are to return to their first condition and pristine order. So much for the Jews.
The Heathen Philosophers, both Greeks and Barbarians, had the same doctrine of the Renovation of the World, currant amongst them. And that under several names and phrases; as of the Great Year, the Restauration, the Mundane periods, and such like. They suppos’d stated and fix’d periods of time, upon expiration whereof there would always follow some great revolution of the World, and the face of Nature would be renew’d. Particularly after the Conflagration, the Stoicks always suppos’d a new World to succeed, or another frame of Nature to be erected in the room of that which was destroy’d. And they use the same words and phrases upon this occasion that Scripture useth; Chrysippus calls it Apocatastasis, as St. PeterLact. l. 7. c. 23. does, Act. 3. 21. Marcus AntoninusEuseb. præp. Ev. l. 7. c. 23. in his Meditations several times calls it Palingenesia, as our Saviour does, Matt. 19. 28. And Numenius hath two Scripture-words, Resurrection and Restitution, to express this renovation of the World. Then as to the Platonicks, that Revolution of all things hath commonly been call’d the Platonick year, as if Plato had been the first author of that opinion; But that's a great mistake; he receiv’d it from the Barbarick Philosophers, and particularly from the Ægyptian Priests, amongst whom he liv’d several years, to be instructed in their learning. But I do not take Plato neither to be the first that brought this doctrine into Greece: for, besides that the Sibylls, whose antiquity we do not well know, sung this Song of old, as we see it copyed from them by Vigil in his fourth Eclogue: Pythagoras taught it before Plato: and Orpheus before them both. And that's as high as the Greek Philosophy reaches.
The Barbarick Philosophers were more ancient: namely the Ægyptians, Persians, Chaldeans, Indian Brackmans, and other Eastern Nations. Their Monuments indeed are in a great measure lost, yet from the remains of them which the Greeks have transcrib’d, and so preserv’d, in their writings, we see plainly they all had this doctrine of the Future Renovation. And to this day the posterity of the Brackmans in the East Indies, retain the same notion, That the World will be renewed after the last Fire. You may see the citations, if you please, for all these Nations, in the Latin Treatise, ch. 5. Which I thought would be too dry and tedious to be render’d into English.
To these Testimonies of the Philosophers of all Ages, for the Future Renovation of the World, we might add the Testimonies of the Christian Fathers: Greek and Latin, ancient and modern. I will only give you a bare List of them, and refer you to the Latin Treatise for the words or the places. Amongst the Greek Fathers,chap. 9. Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Origen, The Fathers of the Council of Nice, Eusebius, Basil; The two Cyrills, of Jerusalem and Alexandria; The two Gregorys, Nazianzen and Nyssen; St. Chrysostom, Zacharias Mitylenensis; and of later date, Damascen, Oecumenaus, Futhymius, and others. These have all set their hands and Seals to this doctrine. Of the Latin Fathers, Tertullian, Lactantius, St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, St. Austin, St. Jerome; and many later Ecclesiastical Authors. These, with the Philosophers before mentioned, I count good authority, Sacred and prophane: which I place here as an out-guard upon Scripture, where our principal force lies. And these three united and acting in conjunction, will be sufficient to secure this first post, and to prove our Propos. I.first Proposition, which is this: That after the Conflagration of this World, there will be New Heavens and a New Earth: and that Earth will be inhabited.
331:1 הבא עולם, ἡ οἰκουμένη ἡ μέλλουσα.