The chief employment of the Millennium, DEVOTION and CONTEMPLATION.
WE have now done with the substance of our Discourse: which is comprehended in these Three Propositions:
I. After the Conflagration of this World, there will be New Heavens and a New Earth: And that Earth will be inhabited.
II. That there is an happy Millennial state; Or a future kingdom of Christ and his Saints, prophesied of and promis’d in the Old and New Testament: and receiv’d by the Primitive Church, as a Christian and Catholick doctrine.
III. That this blessed Millennial state, according as it is describ’d in Scripture, cannot take place in the present Earth, nor under the present constitution of Nature and Providence: But is to be celebrated in the New Heavens and New Earth, after the Conflagration.
These three Propositions support this Work; and if any of them be broken, I confess my design is broken, and this Treatise is of no effect. But what remains to be spoken to in these last Chapters, is more circumstantial or modal; and an error or mistake in such things, does not wound any vital part of the argument. You must now therefore lay aside your severity, and rigorous censures; we are very happy, if, in this life, we can attain to the substance of truth: and make rational conjectures concerning modes and circumstances; where every one hath a right to offer his sence, with modesty and submission. Revelations made to us from Heaven in this present state, are often incompleat, and do not tell us all: as if it was on purpose to set our thoughts a work to supply the rest; which we may lawfully do, provided it be according to the analogy of Scripture and Reason.
To proceed therefore; We suppose, as you see, the new Heavens and the new Earth to be the seat of the Millennium: and that new Creation to be Paradisiacal. Its Inhabitants also to be righteous Persons, the Saints of the most High. And seeing the ordinary employments of our present life, will then be needless and superseded, as Military affairs, Sea-affairs, most Trades and Manufactures, Law, Physick, and the laborious part of Agriculture: it may be wonder’d, how this happy People, will bestow their time: what entertainment they will find in a state of so much ease, and so little action. To this one might answer in short, by another question, How would they have entertain’d themselves in Paradise, if man had continued in Innocency? This is a revolution of the same state, and therefore they may pass their time as well now, as they could have done then. But to answer more particularly, besides all innocent diversions, ingenuous conversations, and entertainments of friendship, the greatest part of their time will be spent in Devotion and Contemplation. O happy employment, and next to that of Heaven it self. What do the Saints above, but sing praises unto God, and contemplate his Perfections. And how mean and despicable, for the most part, are the employments of this present life, if compar’d with those intellectual actions. If Mankind was divided into ten parts, nine of those ten employ their time to get bread to their belly, and cloaths to their back; And what impertinences
are these to a reasonable Soul, if she was free from the clog of a mortal Body; or if that could be provided for, without trouble or loss of time? Corporeal labour is from need and necessity, but intellectual exercises are matter of choice, that please and perfect at the same time.
Devotion warms and opens the Soul, and disposes it to receive divine influences. It sometimes raises the mind into an heavenly ecstasie, and fills it with a joy that is not to be exprest. When it is pure, it leaves a strong impression upon the heart, of Love to God; and inspires us with a contempt of this World, having tasted the pleasures of the World to come. In the state which we speak of, seeing the Tabernacle of God will be with men,Apoc. 21. 3. we may reasonably suppose that there will be greater effusions and irradiations of the Holy Spirit, than we have or can expect in this region of darkness: and consequently, all the strength and comfort that can arise from private devotion.
And as to their publick Devotions, all beauties of holiness, all perfection of divine worship, will shine in their Assemblies. Psal. 84.
Psal. 87.Whatsoever David says of Sion and Jerusalem are but shadows of this new Jerusalem, and of the glory that will be in those Solemnities. Imagine what a Congregation will be there of Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Christian Martyrs, and Saints of the first rank, throughout all Ages. And these all known to one another by their Names and History. This very meeting together of such Persons, must needs create a joy unspeakable: But when they unite in their praises to God and to the Lamb, with pure hearts full of divine Love: when they sing their Halleluiah's to him that sits upon the Throne, that hath wash’d them in his blood, and redeem’d them out of every Kingdom, and Tongue, and People, and Nation. When, with their Psalms in their hands, they triumph over Sin, and Death, and Hell, and all the Powers of Darkness: can there be any thing, on this side Heaven, and a Quire of Angels, more glorious or more joyful?
But why did I except Angels? Why may not they be thought to be present at these Assemblies? In a Society of Saints and purified Spirits, Why should we think their converse impossible? In the Golden Age, the gods were always represented, as having freer intercourse with Men; and before the Flood, we may reasonably believe it so. I cannot think, Enoch was translated into Heaven without any converse with its Inhabitants before he went thither. And seeing the Angels vouchsaf’d often, in former Ages, to visit the Patriarchs upon Earth, we may with reason judge, that they will much more converse with the same Patriarchs and holy Prophets, now they are risen from the Dead, and cleans’d from their sins, and seated in the new Jerusalem. I cannot but call to mind upon this occasion, that representation which St. Paul makes to us, of a glorious state and a glorious Assembly, too high for this present Earth: ’Tis Hebr. 12. 22, &c. in these words. But you are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of Angels; To the general Assembly and Church of the First-born, which are written in Heaven; and to God the Judge of all, and to the Spirits of just men made perfect. This, I know, several apply to the Times and state of the Gospel, in opposition to that of the Law; and it is introduc’d in that manner; But here are several expressions too
high for any present state of things; They must respect a future state, either of Heaven, or of the Millennial kingdom of Christ. And to the later of these the expressions agree, and have a peculiar fitness and applicability to it. And what follows in the context, ver. 26, 27, 28. about shaking the Heavens and the Earth once more: Removing the former Scenes, and bringing on a new Kingdom that cannot be shaken: All this, I say, answers to the kingdom of Christ, which is to be establish’d in the new Heavens and new Earth.
But to proceed in their publick Devotions; Suppose this August Assembly, inflam’d with all divine passions, met together to celebrate the name of God; with Angels intermixt, to bear a part in this holy exercise. And let this concourse be, not in any Temple made with hands, but under the great roof of Heaven, (the true Temple of the most High,) so as all the Air may be fill’d with the chearful harmony of their Hymns and Halleluiahs. Then, in the heighth of their devotion, as they sing praises to the Lamb, and to him that sits upon the Throne, Apoc. 5. 11. suppose the Heavens to open, and the Son of God to appear in his glory, with Thousands and Ten Thousands of Angels round about him; That their eyes may see him, who, for their sakes, was crucified upon Earth, now encircled with Light and Majesty. This will raise them into as great transports as humane nature can bear: They will wish to be dissolv’d, they will strive to fly up to him in the clouds, or to breath out their Souls in repeated doxologiesch. 5. 13. of Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, to him that sits upon the Throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever.
But we cannot live always in the flames of Devotion. The weakness of our nature will not suffer us to continue long under such strong Passions, and such intenseness of Mind. The question is therefore, What will be the ordinary employment of that life? How will they entertain their thoughts, or spend their time? For we suppose they will not have that multiplicity of frivolous business that we have now: About our Bodies, about our Children: in Trades and Mechanicks: in Traffick and Navigation: or Wars by Sea or Land. These things being swept away, wholly or in a great measure, what will come in their place? how will they find work or entertainment for a long life? If, we consider, who they are that will have a part in this first Resurrection, and be Inhabitants of that World that is to come, we may easily believe that the most constant employment of their life will be CONTEMPLATION. Not that I exclude any innocent diversions, as I said before: The entertainments of friendship, or ingenuous conversation, but the great business and design of that life is Contemplation: as preparatory to heaven and eternal Glory. l. 5. c. 32.Ut paulatim assuescant capere Deum, as Irenæus says: That they may, by degrees, enlarge their capacities, fit and accustom themselves to receive God. Or, as he says in another place, That they may become capable of the glory of the Father, that is, capable of bearing the glory and presence of God: capable of the highest enjoyment of him, which is usually call’d the Beatifical Vision; and is the condition of the blessed in Heaven.
It cannot be deny’d, that in such a Millennial state, where we shall be freed from all the incumbrances of this life, and provided of better Bodies and greater light of Mind: It cannot be doubted, I say, but that we shall then be in a disposition to make great proficiency in the knowledge of all things, Divine and Intellectual:
and consequently of making happy preparations for entring upon a further state of glory. For there is nothing certainly does more prepare the mind of man for the highest perfections, than Contemplation: with that Devotion which naturally flows from it, as heat follows light. And this Contemplation hath always a greater or less effect upon the mind according to the perfection of its object. So as the Contemplation of the Divine Nature, is, of all others, the most perfective in it self, and to us, according to our capacities and degree of abstraction. An Immense Being does strangely fill the Soul: and Omnipotency, Omnisciency, and Infinite Goodness, do enlarge and dilate the Spirit, while it fixtly looks upon them. They raise strong passions of Love and Admiration, which melt our Nature, and trans-form it into the mould and image of that which we contemplate. What the Scripture says of our Transformation into the Divine likeness: what St. John and the Platonists say of our Union with God. And whatever is not Cant in the Mystical Theology, when they tell us of being Deified: all this must spring from these sources of Devotion and Contemplation. They will change and raise us from perfection to perfection, as from glory to glory: into a greater similitude and nearer station to the Divine Nature.
The Contemplation of God and his Works, comprehends all things. For, the one makes the uncreated World, and the other the Created. And as the divine Essence and Attributes are the greatest object that the mind of man can set before it self; so next to that are the effects and emanations of the Divinity, or the Works of the Divine Goodness, Wisdom, and Power, in the Created World. This hath a vast extent and variety, and would be sufficient to entertain their time, in that happy state, much longer than a thousand years. As you will easily grant, if you allow me but to point at the several heads of those Speculations.
The Contemplation of the Created World divides it self into three parts, that of the Intellectual World: that of the Corporeal: And the Government and Administration of both, which is usually call’d Providence. These three, drawn into one thought, with the reasons and proportions that result from them, compose that GRAND IDEA, which is the treasury and comprehension of all Knowledge. Whereof we have spoken more largely in the last Chapter of the Second Book of this Theory, under the name of the Mundane Idea. But at present we shall only mention such particulars, as may be thought proper subjects for the meditations and enquiries of those who shall enjoy that happy state which we now treat of.
As to the Intellectual World, excepting our own Souls, we know little, in this region of darkness where we are at present, more than bare names. We hear of Angels and Archangels, of Cherubins and Seraphins, of Principalities and Powers and Thrones and Dominions. We hear the sound of these words with admiration, but we know little of their natures; wherein their general notion, and wherein their distinction, consists: what peculiar excellencies they have, what offices and employments: of all this we are ignorant. Only in general, we cannot but suppose that there are more orders and degrees of Intellectual Beings, betwixt us and the Almighty, than there are kinds or species of living Creatures upon the face of the Earth: betwixt Man, their Lord and Master, and the least Worm that creeps
upon the ground. Nay, than there are Stars in Heaven, or Sands upon the Sea shore. For there is an infinite distance and interval betwixt us and God Almighty: and all that, is fill’d with created Beings of different degrees of perfection, still approaching nearer and nearer to their Maker. And when this invisible World shall be open’d to us: when the Curtain is drawn, and the Celestial Hierarchy set in order before our eyes, we shall despise our selves, and all the petty glories of a mortal life, as the dirt under our feet.
As to the Corporeal Universe, we have some share already in the Contemplation and knowledge of that: tho’ little in comparison of what will be then discover’d. The doctrine of the Heavens, fix’d Stars, Planets and Comets, both as to their matter, motion and form, will be then clearly demonstrated: and what are mysteries to us now, will become matter of ordinary conversation. We shall be better acquainted with our neighbouring Worlds, and make new discoveries as to the state of their affairs. The Sun especially, the Great Monarch of the Planetary Worlds: whose dominion reaches from Pole to Pole, and the greatness of his kingdom is under the whole heaven. Who sends his bright messengers every day through all the regions of his vast Empire: throwing his beams of light round about him, swifter and further than a thought can follow. This noble Creature, I say, will make a good part of their study in the succeeding World. Eudoxus the Philosopher, wish’d he might die like Phaeton, in approaching too near to the Sun; provided he could fly so near it, and endure it so long, till he had discover’d its beauty and perfection. Who can blame his curiosity: who would not venture far to see the Court of so great a Prince: who hath more Worlds under his command than the Emperors of the Earth have Provinces or Principalities. Neither does he make his Subjects slaves to his pleasure, or tributaries to serve and supply his wants; on the contrary, They live upon him, he nourishes and preserves them: gives them fruits every year, corn, and wine, and all the comforts of life. This glorious Body, which now we can only gaze upon and admire, will be then better understood. A mass of Light and Flame, and Ethereal matter, ten thousand times bigger than this Earth: Enlightning and enlivening an Orb that exceeds the bulk of our Globe, as much as that does the least sand upon the Sea shore, may reasonably be presum’d to have some great Being at the Centre of it. But what that is, we must leave to the enquiries of another life.
The Theory of the Earth will be a common lesson there: carried through all its vicissitudes and periods from first to last, till its entire revolution be accomplish’d. I told you in the Preface, The Revolution of Worlds was one of the greatest Speculations that we are capable of in this life: and this little World where we are, will be the first and easiest instance of it; seeing we have Records, Historical or Prophetical, that reach from the Chaos to the end of the new. Heavens and new Earth: which course of time makes up the greatest part of the Circle or Revolution. And as what was before the Chaos, was but the first remove from a Fixt Star, so what is after the thousand years Renovation, is but the last step to it again.
The Theory of humane Nature is also an useful and necessary speculation, and will be carried on to perfection in that state. Having fixt the true distinction betwixt Matter and Spirit, betwixt the Soul and the Body, and the true nature
and laws of their union: The original contract, and the terms ratified by Providence at their first conjunction: It will not be hard to discover the springs of action and passion: how the thoughts of our mind, and the motions of our body act in dependance one upon another. What are the primary differences of Genius's and complexions, and how our Intellectuals or Morals depend upon them. What is the Root of Fatality, and how far it extends. By these lights, they will see into their own and every Man's breast, and trace the foot-steps of the divine wisdom in that strange composition of Soul and Body.
This indeed is a mixt speculation, as most others are: and takes in something of both Worlds, Intellectual and Corporeal: and may also belong in part to the Third Head we mention’d, Providence. But there is no need of distinguishing these Heads so nicely, provided we take in, under some or other of them, what may be thought best to deserve our knowledge, now, or in another World. As to Providence, what we intend chiefly by it here, is the general œconomy of our Religion, and what is reveal’d to us in Scripture, concerning God, Angels, and Mankind. These Revelations, as most in Sacred Writ, are short and incompleat: as being design’d for practice more than for speculation, or to awaken and excite our thoughts, rather than to satisfie them. Accordingly we read in Scripture of a Triune Deity: of God made flesh, in the Womb of a Virgin: Barbarously crucified by the Jews: Descending into Hell: rising again from the Dead: visibly ascending into Heaven: And sitting at the right hand of God the Father, above Angels and Arch-Angels. These great things are imperfectly reveal’d to us in this life; which we are to believe so far as they are reveal'd: In hopes these mysteries will be made more intelligible, in that happy state to come, where Prophets, Apostles, and Angels, will meet in conversation together.
In like manner, how little is it we understand concerning the Holy Ghost.Mat. 3. 16.
Matt. 1. 18.
Luke I. 35. That he descended like a Dove upon our Saviour: Like cloven Tongues of fire upon the Apostles; The Place being fill’d with a rushing mighty Wind: That he over-shadowed the Blessed Virgin, and begot the Holy Infant. That He made the Apostles speak all sort of Tongues and Languages ex tempore, and pour’d out strange Vertues and miraculous Gifts upon the Primitive Christians. These things we know as bare matter of fact, but the method of these operations we do not at all understand. Who can tell us now, what that is which we call INSPIRATION? What change is wrought in the Brain, and what in the Soul: and how the effect follows? Who will give us the just definition of a Miracle? What the proximate Agent is above Man, and whether they are all from the same power? How the manner and process of those miraculous changes in matter, may be conceiv’d? These things we see darkly, and hope they will be set in a clearer light, and the Doctrines of our Religion more fully expounded to us, in that Future World. For as several things obscurely exprest in the Old Testament, are more clearly reveal’d in the New; So the same mysteries, in a succeeding state, may still receive a further explication.
The History of the Angels, Good or bad, makes another part of this Providential Systeme. Christian Religion gives us some notices, of both kinds, but very imperfect; What interest the Good Angels have in the government of the
[paragraph continues] World, and in ordering the affairs of this Earth and Mankind: What subjection they have to our Saviour, and what part in his Ministery: Whether they are Guardians to particular Persons, to Kingdoms, to Empires: All that we know at present, concerning these things, is but conjectural. And as to the bad Angels, who will give us an account of their fall, and of their former condition? I had rather know the history of Lucifer, than of all the Babylonian and Persian Kings; Nay, than of all the Kings of the Earth. What the Birthright was of that mighty Prince: what his Dominions: where his Imperial Court and Residence? How he was depos'd: for what Crime, and by what Power? How he still wages War against Heaven, in his exile: What Confederates he hath: What is his Power over Mankind, and how limited? What change or damage he suffer’d by the coming of Christ, and how it alter’d the posture of his affairs. Where he will be imprison’d in the Millennium: and what will be his last fate and final doom: whether he may ever hope for a Revolution or Restauration? These things lie hid in the secret Records of Providence, which then, I hope, will be open’d to us.
With the Revolution of Worlds, we mention’d before the Revolution of Souls; which is another great Circle of Providence, to be studied hereafter. We know little here, either of the pre-existence or post-existence of our Souls. We know not what they will be, till the loud Trump awakes us, and calls us again into the Corporeal World. Who knows how many turns he shall take upon this stage of the Earth, and how many trials he shall have, before his doom will be finally concluded. Who knows where, or what, is the state of Hell: where the Souls of the wicked are said to be to Eternity. What is the true state of Heaven: what our Celestial Bodies: and what that sovereign happiness that is call’d the Beatifical Vision? Our knowledge and conceptions of these things, are, at present, very general and superficial; But in the future kingdom of Christ, which is introductory to Heaven it self, these imperfections, in a great measure, will be done away; and such preparations wrought, both in the will and understanding, as may fit us for the life of Angels, and the enjoyment of God in Eternal Glory.
Thus you see in general, what will be the employment of the Saints in the blessed Millennium. And tho’ they have few of the trifling businesses of this life, they will not want the best and noblest of diversions. ’Tis an happy thing when a Man's pleasure is also his perfection: for most Men's pleasures are such as debase their nature. We commonly gratifie our lower faculties, our passions, and our appetites: and these do not improve, but depress the mind. And besides, they are so gross, that the finest tempers are surfeited in a little time. There is no lasting pleasure, but Contemplation. All others grow flat and insipid upon frequent use; And when a Man hath run thorough a Sett of Vanities, in the declension of his Age, he knows not what to do with himself, if he cannot Think. He saunters about, from one dull business to another, to wear out time: And hath no reason to value life, but because he's afraid of death. But Contemplation is a continual spring of fresh pleasures. Truth is inexhausted, and when you are once in the right way, the further you go, the greater discoveries you make, and with the greater joy. We are sometimes highly pleas’d, and even transported, with little inventions in Mathematicks, or Mechanicks, or natural Philosophy;
[paragraph continues] All these things will make part of their diversion and entertainment in that state; All the doctrine of sounds and harmony: Of light, colours, and perspective, will be known in perfection. But these I call Diversions, in comparison of their higher and more serious speculations, which will be the business and happiness of that life.
Do but imagine, that they will have the Scheme of all humane affairs lying before them: from the Chaos to the last period. The universal history and order of times. The whole œconomy of the Christian Religion, and of all Religions in the World. The Plan of the undertaking of the Messiah: with all other parts and ingredients of the Providence of this Earth. Do but imagine this, I say, and you will easily allow, that when they contemplate the beauty, wisdom, and goodness, of the whole design, it must needs raise great and noble passions, and a far richer joy than either the pleasures or speculations of this life can excite in us. And this being the last Act and close of all humane affairs, it ought to be the more exquisite and elaborate: that it may crown the work, satisfie the Spectators, and end in a general applause. The whole Theater resounding with the praises of the great Dramatist, and the wonderful art and order of the composition.