Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Future of the Church

The church shall in the end prove victorious against all its adversaries, or providence must miss of its aim. The church is compared to an olive tree, Hosea 14:6, in respect of beauty, 'his beauty shall be as the olive tree!' It is so also in respect of victory. Olive branches were used in triumph. God is on the church's side, and he is stronger than the strongest, and wiser than the wisest, and higher than the highest. Jesus Christ is the church's head and general ; Christ the head watcheth for the good of the church, the body. He must be destroyed before the church can.

There is a mighty arm, which, though it may for a time seem withered, will in the end be stretched out, and get itself the victory. Whilst Christ is in the ship, it may be tossed, but it shall not be sunk. It may be beaten down, but like a ball to rebound the higher. The young tree that is shaken by the wind may lose some leaves, and some fruit too, but the root gets greater strength and strikes itself deeper into the earth, and makes the branches more capable of a rich return of fruit the following year. The church's stature is compared to a palm tree, Song 7:7, which cannot be depressed by the weights which hang upon it, but riseth the higher. God uses the same method in the church's, as in Christ's advancement. Our Saviour's death was necessary to his glory, Luke 24:26, and the church's affliction sometimes to its exaltation. A nation may lose some battles, and yet be victorious ; the church may have many a cross, but in the end will surmount all difficulties. Though judgments and apostasies may be great in a nation, yet God will have a care of his own plants, Isa. 6:12,13; 'There shall be a tenth; it shall return, the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.' As a tree in winter, which seems dead, but its juice shall revive into rich and generous blossoms. The ark 'shall float above the waters. Babylon shall fall, the Lamb shall stand upon mount Zion. Men may as well stop the rising of the sun in its mounting to the meridian, bridle in the tide of the ocean, as hinder the current of an almighty providence.

The interest of nations is to bear a respect to the church, and countenance the worship of God in it. This is to concur with God's main end, and imitate him in his providential administrations. God's people, whatever their enemies suggest to the contrary, are a blessing in the midst of a land, Isa. 19:24 ; their interest is greater than the interest of all the world besides ; though they be but a handful, their fruit shall shake like Lebanon, Ps. 72:16. The neglect of religion is the ruin of nations. It is observed that Cyrus was slain in the war in Scythia, a little after he neglected the building of the temple of Jerusalem which he had begun. (sse Broughton on Dan. 10:10.)

Those Persian kings reigned the longest that favoured the Jews in that and their other just requests. God honoured or disgraced them as they were kind or cruel to his people. And when they act for the good of his people, they shall not be without their reward. When Cyrus should let the Jewish captives go free without ransom, he should be no loser by it. God would give him the labour of Egypt, the merchandise of Ethiopia, and the strength of the Sabeans into his hand for the price of his people's delivery, Isa. 45: 13,14. Those nations which should favour them in the times of their persecutions and flights, and give them shelter in their countries, should thrive and prosper by the blessing of God upon them. If Moab give entertainment to the flying Israelites in the time of the invasion of Shalmanezer, God will preserve their land that the spoiler shall not enter into the confines of it, and they shall have kings and judges under the protection of the house of David, i.e. under the kings of Israel, as some understand it, Isa. 16:4, 5. Saints are the guardians of the places where they live, their prayers have a greater influence than the wisest counsels, or the mightiest force, 2 Kings 2:12: 'And Elisha cried, My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.' The Chaldee paraphraseth thus: 'Thou art better to Israel by thy prayers than chariots and horsemen.' This is the elegy of one single prophet ; what influence then hath the whole church of God in a place? The whole world is the better for the church of God.

by Stephen Charnock