Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness and I saw a new heaven, and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and will dwell with them. (2 Pet iii. 13. Rev. xxi. 1-3).
Though my text contains a new heaven to come, as well as a new earth, new inhabitants, and a new city; and also old heavens, old earth and old sea to pass away, yet am I not obliged, Sir, by your direction to discourse of all those subjects and their predicates; nor of any of them beside the new heaven, new earth, New inhabitants, and New Jerusalem. And these are tasks sufficient; for I never saw either; nor, indeed, have I seen much of the old heavens and old earth, having been born, and having hitherto lived in this northern corner of the earth, within, almost, the smoke of my father’ s chimney. My knowledge of the rest of the creation is owing to your help, Sir, and the help
Of books of astronomy, geography, history. But I have no such helps towards knowing the new heaven, new earth, and New Jerusalem: some of them who shall be the inhabitants I may have seen. Nor do I find that any man ever saw these surprising Novelties besides St. John the divine. Tertullian, indeed (in his third book against Marcion) informs us that the New Jerusalem had been seen for forty nights successively; and further he saith not. It is from St. John, Therefore that I must fetch my knowledge of the said novelties; and chiefly from his last chapter of the apocalypse. I begin with the New Heaven.
By which I understand the atmosphere, which will surround the new earth. The present atmosphere is often called heaven and heavens, in the plural: the reason of the plural is obvious; for heterogeneous matter floats in the air in different altitudes and so divide it into regions: but the atmosphere of the new earth will be homogeneous, and therefore pure and serene; because free from those noxious vapors which cause thunder and storms, nay cause sickness and death; for we often draw in both with our breath; therefore john speaks of it in the singular number, new heaven: and so would Peter and Isaiah had they seen it as St. John had. What fine air will the inhabitants of the new earth breathe in! And consequently, how fine their weather! The fable of the halcyon days will then be fact! You see, Sir, that I have confined my notion of the new heaven and
The old heaven to the atmospheres of their respective earths; because no other heaven belongs to this earth either in its past, present, or future state. I come now to the new earth.
Concerning which St. John’ s account affords us the following remarks (1) it will owe its extraordinary quality to the mighty power of God, ” I make all things new” (Rev. xxi. 5.). Isaiah uses a stronger expression; ” I create new heavens and a new earth” (LXV. 17). One would think by this that the old earth is to be annihilated in the fire which my text mentions: but this is not credible; for fire annihilates nothing, and is itself but matter into brisk motion, as we see by many accidents in common life: the matter therefore of the old heaven and old earth will remain, to an atom, after the fire has had its will of it; of which God will form the new. Nor does the word create forbid such a notion; for though it properly signifies ” making something out of nothing, yet in the writings of prophets and apostles it often signifies no more than ” to give things that did previously exist some new form or quality: so God formed dust and a rib into man and woman, and called it the creation of Adam and Eve: so he makes a saint of a sinner and calls him a new creature: just so in case of the new heaven and new earth: they will rise, like the Phoenix, from the ashes of the old, and that refined like gold out of the furnace. O glorious saints!
The first earth in its pristine state was not equal to it! That was to be broken with floods and dissolved with fire; but this is to last forever, and therefore put off of hand with exquisite finishing! (2) Another hint that St. John gives us in his geography of the new earth, is, that it will have no sea, but be all terra firma and there was no more sea, faith my text. Nevertheless it will not want water; ” for he showed ” me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal proceeding out of the throne of God, and the lamb in the New Jerusalem ” (Rev. xxii.1). This river, like that of paradise (to which esurience is had) will divide, and compass the new earth, as that did the lands of Havilah, Ethiopia, and the east: but the spot where the lamb’ s throne will stand (in the New Jerusalem) will not be the only source; for we read of fountains of waters elsewhere (Rev. vii. 17. xxi. 6. xxii. 17). The new earth will abound with such springs and rivers. But here it will be asked, what comes of all the water of life if there be no sea? Go, ask Dr. Halley what comes of the waters of the ocean: they evaporate: so will the rivers of the New earth; and the blessed inhabitants will breath life, as well as drink life and eat life! And now since we are come to the banks of our river, let us pause a while for the purpose of admiration: Water clear as Christa! Who ever heard of such water before! How still the courses of such rivers, and how firm the soil, if they will be never muddy! Water of life! Well May they live forever who drink it! What is wine in comparison of such nectar! So exhilarating and delicious is it, that a draught therefore is made the
Reward of victory, and a motive to Godliness (Rev. xxii. 17). I proceed to the inhabitants of the new earth.
And they are righteous persons, as appears by one clause in my text, wherein dwelleth righteousness: the abstract for the concrete, to denote perfection in righteousness. Some of the dwellers on the old earth are righteous, but not perfectly so the raised and changed personages in the millennium earth will be perfectly righteous: not so the rest of the inhabitants of the New earth: so holy will it and its inhabitants be, that the father in a symbol, and Christ and angels in persons will dwell with them. We have heard of a heaven on earth; but now we see earth itself become a heaven: holy angels, the holy Jesus and the holy father (in a symbol) altogether upon earth! We see earth made perfect at last! Air made pure! And sustenance refined to the uttermost! Fruits of life for food! And aqua vita for drink! O happiness beyond compare! Who would not be a saint in a prospect of such profusion of happiness! One thing more of these righteous dwellers on earth, viz. They will be divided into nations, and governed by kings: what else can be the meaning of these words and the nations that are saved and the kings of the earth shall bring their honor and into the New Jerusalem. (Rev. xxi. 24. 25). In this New Jerusalem like the Millennium Jerusalem) will Christ sit upon the throne of majesty and
Hither will his vice-roys and the nations that are saved, and their kings repair to acknowledge his supremacy, and to offer him their honor and glory. Let it not be thought strange that there should be thrones, principalities, dominions, &c. on the new earth; for are there no such things in heaven; among holy angles? (Col. i., 16). If there be archangels in heaven, why not arch saints on earth? Governors and governed there must be, else how can any of the saints reign with Christ for ever and ever: their reigning with him for a thousand years is not reigning with him forever and ever: and of his kingdom in the new world there shall be no end, tho there will be in the old. (Luke i. 33) So much for the earth in its everlasting state. Other parts of scripture give us a view of it in its early condition; then it was void and without form. * (Gen. I). But God gave it a form;
” The Hebrew word, used in this place, signifies became, rather than was, hence some gather that the chaotic state of this earth, which Moses presents to our view, was not its original state; but a state of concession into which sequent the creation of the earth, which Moses speaks of can mean no more than reducing a ruined globe into the beautiful form and furniture it bore when Adam and Eve were put in possession of it; for it is not credible that the matter of the earth did not exist till about six thousand years ago, or that God had been unactive from all eternity till then. Its first inhabitants that sinned are those spirits, which we call souls. It may be so; for if souls now exist when they lose their bodies, why might they not before they had them? Could the ancient doctrine of the pre existence and delinquency of souls be established, it would not only confirm the article of original sin, in our creeds; but give it a form that would neither hurt our feelings, nor stagger our faith, as is now the case. Nothing is plainer in the Bible than that we come into this world under guilt; and that we no sooner have our beginning in it than punishment begins, even before we do either good or evil: how can this possibly be, except we deserved punishment in a prior state? To account for it, some suppose that all mankind, souls and bodies, were seminally in Adam, who sinned before he began to propagate the species and that as the root, so the branches. But this hypothesis is reprobated; and another assumed, which has good luck if it escape reprobation, viz. That God creates a foul for every fact that is produced, which, by this rule, God must create souls in constant succession: by this rule he must create thousands every day, Sunday not excepted. But the notion of pre-existence and delinquency solves all difficulties; and affords us a clue that will lead us thro all the mazes of revelation and providence, as far as the doctrine of original sin is concerned. I observed that the pre-existence of souls is not a novelty: it was held by the Gym nosophists of Egypt, the brachmans of Greece and Italy, and by the Christian fathers. The Jews believed the doctrine. Nay the Apostles believed if as appears by their question in John. Ix. 2; for they supposed the blind man had sinned before he was born; and Christ’ s not contradicting, was authorizing the doctrine.”
Form; and the most perfect of all forms, the form of a globe; and furnished it with all things that live and vegetate, so that it became very good. Afterwards it is shown us under a curse, and torn to pieces by a deluge. Time is coming when it will be restored to
A better state, viz. The time of millennium. Afterwards it will be seen all in a blaze. Then comes it to be the new earth we have been speaking of. These changes are obvious to all that read the Bible: if any such were ignorant of them they are willingly ignorant. Peter had to do with some such. (2 Ep. Iii. 5.) We come now to the metropolis of the new earth, viz. New Jerusalem.
I say metropolis; for we cannot suppose that there will be no other city or town in the new world: the division of the inhabitants into kingdoms and nations intimates and contrary. But the New Jerusalem will be the chief of all cities and towns, and the metropolis of the entire world. Concerning which the following things are specified in the book of Revelation.
1. Its name, with periphrases of its proprietor: the name is New Jerusalem. It is so called, partly, to distinguish it from the old Jerusalem; partly to show the peaceableness of it, for Jerusalem bears that signification; and the gates of the New Jerusalem are to be open day and night (Rev. xxi. 25): but chiefly, because it is to be the residence of deity, as the old Jerusalem was. The periphrases of its proprietor is, the bride, the lamb’ s wife: it is called a bride to denote its brilliancy, as the sun is called a groom; and the lamb’ s wife, because its is the lamb’ s property as a man’ s wife is his own, and what is here called the bride is in the next clause called the tabernacle of God with men; nevertheless some are led by the above
Phrase to imagine, that it is no city at all, but the church triumphant, altho’ it has all the characters of a real city; viz. Length, breadth, height, trees, river, walls, gates, guards and kings, and nations bringing honor and glory into it: to adjust all these to a number of persons* is not staring but stark madness; but an accommodation of them to a city is neither uncouth nor uncommon. Is not the city Jerusalem considered as God’ s bride? Else how comes he to charge her with adultery when the chose other lovers? Is not the city of Rome compared to a woman richly attired a little before my text? Not to a virgin but to a harlot, married to antichrist. The very word city is feminine in most languages, which makes the comparison easy and natural. But if what hath been said will not save our fine city from Vanishing in an allegory let it be observed, that Christ and his saints are to descend from heaven to the new earth; and that the New Jerusalem is to descend from the same place to the same earth; but not empty; no; Christ and his saints will descend in it; if so, the contained will be the lamb’ s wife, if not the thing containing. Either way we save the finest city in the world from annihilation. Precede we.