Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him, that you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, that the day of Christ is at hand.—2 THES. II. 1, 2.
THE former chapter was spent in a consolation against troubles, this in a caution against error, or to rectify their judgments concerning the time of Christ’s second coming. In these two first verses, we have the manner of proposal, ver. 1; the matter proposed, ver. 2.
1. The manner of proposal is very pathetical, by way of adjuration or obtestation.
2. The matter. An error had crept in among the Thessalonians concerning the speedy and immediate coming of Christ to judgment, while they were yet alive; which error the devil set on foot to subvert their faith and expose the whole Christian doctrine to contempt.
First, The manner or obtestation falleth first under our consideration, in which two things are mentioned:—
1. The coming of Christ.
2. Their gathering together unto him. Obtestations are by those things which have great reverence and respect with us, as most likely to prevail. Now the two things are mentioned:—
[1.] As weighty: 2 Tim. iv. 1, ‘I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead, at his appearance and his kingdom.’
[2.] This was the article mistaken and perverted as to one circumstance, the time; but the thing is taken for granted as an unquestionable truth, and the support of all their hopes: 2 Thes. i. 10, ‘When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.’
[3.] This was a famous Christian doctrine with which the apostles usually began, in planting religion in any place: 1 Thes. v. 1-3, ‘But of the times and the seasons ye have no reason that I write unto you, for ye yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night,’ &c.
[4.] It was of precious account with them: 2 Tim. iv. 8, ‘Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto them also that love his appearing.’ So that the obtestation implieth both the certainty of their belief, and also their dear account of this article of faith; and therefore the sense is: As you do assuredly expect him, and love, and look, and long for this day, that it may go well with you, and Christ appear to your glory, so be not troubled.
Doct. 1. That the coming of Christ to the judgment is a truth well known, firmly believed, and earnestly desired by all true Christians.
Doct. 2. That when Christ shall come, all the saints shall be gathered together unto him.
Doct. 1. That the coming of Christ to the judgment is a truth well known, firmly believed, and earnestly desired by all the saints.
1. That it is well known, the apostle produceth the testimony of Enoch: Jude 14, ‘Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints.’ David often mentioneth it as a thing delighted in by believers; therefore, in a poetical, or rather prophetical strain, he calleth upon the heavens, earth, sea, and fields to rejoice ‘before the Lord, for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth; he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth,’ Ps. xcvi. 13; and again, Ps. xcviii. 9, he calleth upon the creatures to rejoice ‘before the Lord, for he cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity;’ passages which relate, not only to the kingdom of the Messiah, as it is exercised now in the world, but also to his final act of judging, till which time they are not fully verified. Solomon bindeth the whole duty of man upon him by this consideration: Eccles. xii. 13, 14, ‘Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man; for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil. And the apostles, when they went abroad to proselytise the world, usually began with this point.
2. That this is firmly believed by all true Christians. This must needs be so, because it is the grand inducement to all piety and godliness, and none ever disbelieved it but those the interest of whose lusts engaged them to question it: 2 Peter iii. 3-5, ‘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. For this they willingly are ignorant of,’ &c. Willingly ignorant; their interest puts them upon it, rather than their conscience, because this doctrine filleth them with unquiet thoughts, that they cannot so securely follow their sinful practices till they blot out the fear of it, or banish the thoughts of it out of their hearts. But all that obey the teachings of grace (take it for objective or subjective grace), they firmly believe it: Titus ii. 11-13, ‘For the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.’ The sound belief of it is not so much encountered with the doubts of the mind, as the inclinations of their perverse hearts. Now, the seeming reasons of partial men are not to be heard, especially as delivered in a scoffing, malicious way; and on the other side, godliness and mortification standeth upon such evident reason as man’s unquestionable duty, that it needeth not to be maintained by a lie and manifest falsehood. Certainly, they that deny it do not so much reason against this article of our Christian faith as scoff at it; and it is to be imputed to the malignity of their tempers, rather than the acuteness or sharpness of their reason that they do not believe it. Many things which they urge are a manifest token of the contrary; as the calamities of the good: 2 Thes. i. 4, 5, ‘So that we glory in you for your faith and patience in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God.’ The perversion of justice: Eccles. iii. 16, 17, ‘And moreover, I saw under the Sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there, and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there; I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. Things must be reviewed and judged over again. A state-engine to serve order and government. Doth the benefit of mankind need a lie to promote it? Doth carnal interest govern the world, or virtue? If mere carnal interest, what a confusion would there be of all things? Then men might commit all villainy, take away men’s lives and goods when it is their interest, or they could do it safely and secretly, without infringement of their interest; servants poison their masters, if they could do it without discovery, and there were no sin in it; men prey upon others, if it be in the power of their hands; and ‘catch he that catch can,’ without impunity, would be the truest wisdom. Clear it is, virtue cannot be supported without the thoughts of a world to come; and it is unreasonable to imagine that God would make a world which cannot be governed without falsehood and deceit.
3. That it is earnestly desired by all true Christians. That is of chief respect here; for the apostle conjureth them by all that is dear and sacred in their most holy faith; and upon this I will mainly spend the first part of this discourse. I shall prove it by these two choice pieces of scripture, which describe the communion of the church with Christ, or the dispensations of Christ to the church; the one concerneth God’s internal, the other his external government—the Canticles and Revelations. The book of Canticles is ended with this desire, vote, and wish: Cant. viii. 14, ‘Make haste my beloved, and be like a young hart or roe upon the mountains of spices.’ The bride’s last and great suit to the bridegroom is ‘make haste,’ as to his coming in glory to judge the world; not that Christ is slack, but the church’s affections are strong. They that go a-whoring after the world neither desire his coming, nor love his appearing; but the spouse would have all things hastened that he might return. He cannot come soon enough to set the world to rights and complete their happiness; it is that only that will perfect their consolation, and therefore would have the blessed and longed-for meeting hastened. In the other book, of the Revelations, see how it is closed: Rev. xxii. 20, Christ saith, ‘Surely I come quickly;’ and the church, like a quick echo, saith ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus; come quickly. It taketh the word out of Christ’s mouth, and presently improveth the promise into a prayer, and so Christ’s voice and the church’s voice are unisons. The acclamation of the saints answereth to his proclamation. Christ saith, ‘I come,’ as desiring to meet with us. The church answereth, ‘Even so, come,’ as desiring his fellowship and company. When once faith apprehendeth the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus to judgment, love presently desireth it, as the most comfortable thing which we can ask of him; that is the farewell suit of the church to Christ. If he will grant this, all complaints, and sorrow, and sighing will be no more.
Now I shall give you reasons why this is desired by all true Christians.
1. In respect of him who is to come: his person, that we may see him who is our great Lord and Saviour. All that believed anything of Christ desired to see him; those that lived before his coming in the flesh: John viii. 56, ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad;’ and the same affection possesseth us that live after his coming in the flesh. We know him by hearsay, we have heard much of him; he wooeth us by a proxy, as Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, did Rebekah. Now, Christians would fain see him of whom they have heard, and whom they loved, and in whom they have believed: 1 Peter i. 8, ‘Whom having not seen, ye love, and in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.’ They do not see Christ, but they have a taste of his goodness: 1 Peter ii. 3, ‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.’ They have felt his comforts and live by his life; all that is wanting is but ocular vision, that they may see him face to face; therefore they long for his coming.
The excellency of Christ their head shall then be fully revealed; therefore it is comfortable to his saints to think of his second coming. It is called, ‘the revelation of Christ,’ 1 Peter i. 13. Christ is now under a veil, retired within the curtain of the heavens. The wicked often ask, Where is now your God? and our own unbelieving hearts are apt to question the glory of his person and the truth of his promises, when his most faithful servants are under disgrace. Christ is a glorious king, but little of his glory is seen in the world; therefore they desire that he may appear in glory and royalty; we pray that his kingdom may come.
2. The persons desiring; there is somewhat in them to move them to it.
[1.] The Spirit of Christ: Rev. xxii. 17, ‘The Spirit in the bride saith, Come;’ the Holy Ghost breedeth this desire in the church. Nature saith, It is good to be here; but this is a disposition above nature. The flesh saith, Depart; but the Spirit saith, Come. The great work of the Spirit is to bring us and Christ together; he cometh from the Father and the Son to bring us to the Father by the Son; his business is to marry us to Christ; the promise being passed, the spouse longeth to see her beloved. It is the Spirit kindleth a desire in us of his second coming, when the marriage that is now contracted shall be consummated; when the queen shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework, and shall enter into the palace with him, there to abide for ever. Well, then, though guilty sinners would have Christ stay away still, and if it might go by voices, the carnal world would never give their voice this way, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly;’ no, they are of the devils’ mind, ‘Why art thou come to torment us before the time?’ Mat. viii. 29. Thieves and malefactors, if they might have the liberty to choose, they would never look nor long for the day of assizes; but the Spirit in the bride is another thing, it giveth us other inclinations: the sooner Christ cometh the better; they can never be soon enough taken up to him, nor he come to them.
[2.] There are graces planted in us, faith, hope, and love, to move us earnestly to desire his coming.
(1.) Faith believeth Christ will be as good as his word: ‘I will come again; if it were not so, I would have told you,’ John xiv. 2. And if Christ saith in a way of promise, ‘I come,’ the church saith, ‘Amen,’ in a way of faith, ‘even so, come.’ If Christ had gone away in discontent, and with a threat in his mouth, Ye shall never see my face more, we should altogether despair of seeing him again; but he parted in love, and left a promise with us, which upholdeth the hearts of believers during his absence. Would Christ deceive us, and flatter us into a fools’ paradise? What need that? He can strike us dead in an instant if we do not please him, and we have hitherto found him true in all things, and will he fail us at last?
(2.) Hope, which is faith’s handmaid; it looketh for that which we do believe, it is the immediate effect of the new creature: 1 Peter i. 3, ‘Begotten to a lively hope;’ as soon as grace is infused, it discovereth itself by its tendency to its end and rest; it came from heaven, and carrieth the soul thither.
(3.) Love is an affection of union; it desireth to be with the party loved: Phil. i. 23, ‘I desire to depart, and to be with Christ;’ therefore its voice is, ‘Come, come.’ He hath communion with us in our houses of clay; therefore we desire presence with him in his palace of glory. His voice now is very sweet when he saith, ‘Come unto me, ye that are weary and heavy laden,’ but much more will it be so when he saith, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit a kingdom prepared for you before the foundations of the world were laid.’ Reconciliation with God is comfortable, but what will fruition be!
[3.] Look upon a Christian’s privileges; believers then find the fruit of their interest in him, and have their reward adjudged to them: Rev. xxii. 12, ‘Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me.’ Christ doth not come empty-handed: it is but maintenance we have from him now, but then wages; earnest now, but then the full sum; it is our pay-day, yea, rather, it is our crowning-day: 2 Tim. iv. 8, ‘Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which God the righteous Judge will give me in that day;’ I Peter v. 4, ‘When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory, which fadeth not away.’ Those that have been faithful and diligent in their duty shall not need to seek another paymaster; that which Christ giveth us in hand is worth all the pains that we lay out in his service; grace and inward peace: but then we shall have glory and honour; he will honour us in the sight of those that have opposed, contradicted, and despised us: our comfort is hidden, but our glory is sensible, and visible, and public before all the world.
Object. But how can true Christians earnestly desire it, when so many tremble at the thought of it, for want of assurance of God’s love?
Ans. We suppose a Christian in a right frame, and one that doth prepare for his coming; but—
1. The meanest saint hath some inclination this way. It was one of the points of the apostolical catechism: Heb. vi. 2, ‘The doctrine of resurrection from the dead, and of eternal judgment:’ and the apostolical catechism was for the initiating or entering of Christians into the faith and profession of the gospel: when they laid the foundation, this was one truth which was never omitted, the coming of Christ to judgment. Now faith is a believing, not with the mind only, but the heart; they were to be affected with what they did believe—sapida scientia was the qualification—and not with trembling only, for that would deter them from Christianity; but with rejoicing of hope, which did invite them to the practice of it: Heb. iii. 6, ‘Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope firm unto the end;’ and indeed what other affection can become the thought of Christ’s rewards which he will bring with him?
2. Sometimes there may be a drowsiness and indisposition in the children of God when their lamps are not kept burning: Luke xii. 37, ‘Blessed are those servants whom, when the Lord cometh, he shall find watching;’ but the wise virgins slumbered as well as the foolish; and so for a season they may be unprepared for his coming by carelessness or remission of their watchfulness and neglect of preparation, yet the spirit and inclination this way beginneth with the new birth. A wife desireth her husband’s coming home after a long journey, but it may be all things are not ready and in so good order: sometimes all good Christians desire the coming of Christ, but sometimes they are not so exact and accurate in their walkings, and therefore their affections are not so lively; security breedeth deadness, and God is fain to rouse us up by sharp afflictions.
3. The church doth really and heartily desire Christ’s coming, though they tremble at some circumstances of his coming: there is a degree of bondage that hindereth much of our confidence and boldness: I John iv. 17, 18, ‘Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment; he that feareth is not made perfect in love.’ While we are imperfect there may be some fears how it shall go with us in the judgment. The day of judgment may be considered in esse rei, or in esse cognito,—the success of the day itself, that we may stand before Christ in the judgment, or in our apprehension of it, that we may think of it with boldness, confidence, and desire. All sincere persons shall speed well in the judgment; but while we are thus weak and imperfect, we have little confidence of our sincerity. Certainly the more holy we are, the more we are emboldened against judgment to come; therefore we must every day get a conscience soundly established against the fears of hell and damnation.
4. To be of such a temper as not at all to value, and prize, and delight in it, quencheth all sense of godliness and religion. Surely they are not touched with any fear of God who wish it would never come, who would be glad in their heart to hear such news; they have the spirit of the devil in them who count his coming their burden and torment; they cannot say the Lord’s Prayer without a fear to be heard, and pray, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ when they desire it may never be; the thought of it casts a damp on their carnal rejoicing; and he that is afraid lest his prayers prove true, can never pray heartily; no, not with a moral sincerity.
Use. To press us to keep up a firm belief and an earnest desire of Christ’s coming; this will make you heavenly-minded: Phil. iii. 20, 21, ‘For our conversation is in heaven, where we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.’ It will engage you to fidelity in your duty; for every one of us must give an account of himself to God: 1 John ii. 28, ‘And now, little children, abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.’ To watchfulness as well as faithfulness: Luke xxi. 36, ‘Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.’ Yea, to diligence, that you may clear up your title and interest: Heb. ix. 28, ‘And to them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin unto salvation;’ 2 Peter iii. 14, ‘Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless.’ Oh, therefore, let this be a precious truth to you, which you would not forego for all the world; if others tremble at the mention of it, still carry it so that it may be your comfort and solace. In short, believe it strongly, think of it frequently, prepare for it diligently, improve it fruitfully, to all holy conversation and godliness, yea, to get oil not into your lamps only, but vessels,—grace in your hearts, as well as profess yourselves to be Christians.
Doct. 2. That when Christ shall come, all the saints shall be gathered together unto him.
For evidencing this, let me clear to you, that at the day of judgment there shall be:—1. A congregation. 2. A segregation. 3. An aggregation.
They are all intended, but principally the last.
1. A congregation: Mat. xxv. 32, ‘Before him shall be gathered all nations;’ and not only all nations, but all persons: 2 Cor. v. 10, ‘We must all (collective) appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one (distributive) may receive according to the things done in his body,’ &c. All that have lived from the beginning of the world unto that day shall, without exception of any one single person, from the least unto the greatest, appear before the tribunal of Christ; no age, no sex, or nation, or dignity, or greatness, can excuse us. In the world some are too high to be questioned, others too low to be taken notice of, but there all are brought forth to undergo their trial; there is no shifting or avoiding this day of appearance: Adam will there meet with all his posterity at once. Take all the distinctions of mankind, infants, and grown persons; I mean infants who die before they are in an ordinary way capable of the doctrine of life (the scriptures are written for grown persons, the case of infants is more obscure), those of them who are born within the church, God is their God: Gen. xvii. 7, ‘I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.’ Good and bad is the next distinction,—both sorts come to receive their sentence; only the one come to the judgment of condemnation, the other to the judgment of absolution: John v. 28, 29, ‘Those that have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those that have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation;’ Acts xxiv. 15, ‘There shall be a resurrection of the dead; both of the just and unjust.’ The next distinction is men of all callings,—apostles, ministers, private Christians. Apostles: Paul expected to be judged: 1 Cor. iv. 4, ‘I know nothing of myself, yet am I not thereby justified, but he that judgeth me is the Lord;’ he speaketh with respect to the execution of the apostolical office. Ordinary ministers: Heb. xiii. 17, ‘They watch for your souls, as those that must give an account.’ If souls miscarry through their negligence, they are answerable to God for it. Ordinary Christians: Rom. xiv. 12, ‘Every one must give an account of himself’ to God.’ Men of all conditions, poor or rich, weak or powerful, high and low: Rev. xx. 12, ‘I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God;’ I mean those that are so distinguished now; these distinctions do not outlive time, there all stand on the same level; the ruffling men of the world shall then be afraid, and ‘call upon the mountains to cover them from the wrath of him that sitteth upon the throne,’ Rev. vi. 16. The poor are not forgotten; they are God’s creatures, and must undergo his judgment. Thus shall all people that live scattered up and down in the world, how much soever they differ from one another in rites, tongues, customs of living, be brought together in one place.
2. There is a segregation: Mat. xxv. 32, 33, ‘He shall separate the one from the other, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on his left.’ There may be now a confusion and mixture of the godly and the wicked, as sheep and goats feed in the same pasture; and they may be all raised together according to the places where they lived and died; but then a perfect separation: good and bad are first gathered together, but the good are drawn into a company by themselves, but no pure company, till the great Shepherd will ‘judge between cattle and cattle,’ Ezek. xxxiv. 17; ‘He will gather his saints together, Ps. l. 5; Ps. i. 5, The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.’ So Mat. xiii. 49, ‘At the end of the world the angels shall come, and sever the wicked from among the just.’
3. An aggregation: believers are gathered together to him for several ends:—
[1.] To make up the number of Christ’s train and attendants to wait on him: Jude 14, ἐν ἁγίαις μυριάσιν, ‘with his holy ten thousands;’ Zech. xiv. 5,’And the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with him;’ 1 Thes. iv. 17, ‘The dead in Christ shall rise first, and we which are alive shall be caught up together in the clouds with them, to meet the Lord in the air.’
[2.] That after judgment we may be solemnly presented to God by head and poll. We were given to Christ to be preserved unto the glory we were designed for: John xvii. 6, ‘I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them me;’ not by way of alienation, but oppignoration [an act of pawning or pledging], recompense, and charge. Christ is to give an account: John vi. 40, ‘And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ The form of presentation is, Heb. ii. 13, ‘Behold I and the children which God hath given me.’
[3.] That in one troop we may be brought into his heavenly kingdom: John xiv. 3, ‘And if I go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’ The whole flock shall then follow the great Shepherd of the sheep into the everlasting fold.
Use 1. Believe this gathering together to him. We are joined to the church of God’s elect now by faith only: Heb. xii. 22, 23, ‘Ye are come to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven,’ &c. Πανήγυρις is a meeting made up of many different persons gathered together from several countries into one body and one place; as the meeting of all sorts of persons from all the corners of Greece to see the Olympic Games was called the πανήγυρις; people of all countries came to behold their ἀγῶνες; so the mystical state of the church of the gospel is a general assembly, because it is not confined to one nation, but extended to believers of all nations and ages; they are drawn into a body, or heavenly society, into one fold, under one Shepherd; but they never meet in an actual assembly until the last day, which is the great congregation or rendezvous of the saints, so that now it is matter of faith.
2. See you be of the number. When some are admitted, others are thrust out: Luke xiii. 28, ‘There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and ye yourselves thrust out;’ the wicked shall not stand in this congregation. Oh, it is a blessed and a comfortable thing when we are made members of the mystical body of Christ, and have hopes that we shall be in the number of those that shall meet together in the great assembly and congregation of the righteous; that we are trained up in the church of Christ, which is the seminary of heaven; that we are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints.
3. Let us improve it many ways.
[1.] To comfort us against the paucity of serious walkers and real Christians. Alas! now they are but like two or three berries upon the top of the uppermost bough; here one, and there another; in some places thinner, in others thicker, as God hath service for them; in appearance, μικρός ποίμνιον, ‘a little flock,’ Luke xii. 32. But take all together, they are a general assembly, that are ‘redeemed out of every kindred, tongue, and nation,’ Rev. v. 9; yea, Rev. vii. 9, ‘a great multitude, which none can number, of all kindreds, tongues, peoples, and nations.’ As few as we are, and as despised as the interest of the godly is, we shall not want company in heaven; we see few going to heaven, but when we are gathered together we shall see that our everlasting companions are many.
[2.] To comfort us against the distance of Christian friends. We are often separated from the society of good Christians whom we love dearly, but we shall be gathered together in one congregation. The saints are now scattered by Providence; they live in divers countries, towns, houses, have little comfort of one another. They live where they may be most useful; as stars do not shine in a cluster, but are dispersed throughout the heaven; and as they are the light of the earth, so they are the salt of the earth, which is sprinkled here and there, not laid in a heap; sometimes by violence of men, persecution, and banishment; sometimes by death, which parts friends, perfectus est quem putas mortuum, like people in a wreck, got to shore before us. Now what a comfort is it to be united to all God’s people, which have been, are, or shall be, to the end of the world, and to meet in one assembly: Mat. xxiv. 31, ‘They shall gather together the elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to another.’ The saints shall be gathered from all quarters of the earth; though they live in several places, several times, many we never saw in the flesh, Christ will assemble them all, bring them in unto one place.
[3.] To comfort them under the degenerate and collapsed state of Christianity. (1.) The mixture of the wicked; the good and bad are here mixed, they live together in the same kingdoms, cities, societies, visible church, family, bed (perhaps), but then a perfect separation: Zech. xiv. 21, ‘There shall no more be the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts;’ Rev. xxi. 27, ‘Nothing that defileth shall enter there:’ such a difference shall there be between the state of God’s church in this world, and the world to come: here tares are mingled with wheat, good fish with bad in the drag-net; it is hard by discipline to keep the sound from the infected. (2.) Discord; the saints are divided in affection, but then perfect harmony; they are all gathered together to Christ, and have no signs and badges of distinction to herd apart. (3.) It is universal with all the saints. (4.) Perpetual, never to part more.