« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Though the meaning of the prophecies is necessarily wrapt up in modes of expresion not easy to be understood, as they would otherwife operate against their own accomplishment; yet they may not be abfolutely infcrutable; and especially when their accomplishment approaches nearer, and increasing light is cast upon them by the arising of circumstances connected with them. This feems to be intimated by the angel. Dan. xii. 4, 9, 10. But thou, 0 Daniel, fhut up the words, and feal the book, even to the time of the end: many fhall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. The words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.--None of the wicked shall understand, but the wife shall understand. The meaning of these words, according to the learned Dr. Lowth, is, “ The nearer the time approaches for the final accomplishment of the prophecy, the more light shall men have for the understanding it; for the gradual completion of this and other prophecies shall direct observing readers to form a judgment concerning those particulars which are yet to be fulfilled. From hence we may observe the reason of the obscurity of several prophecies in scripture; and it may be observed, that generally those prophecies are most obscure, the time of whose completion is furthest off. For the same reason, in interpreting the prophecies relating to the latter times of the world, the judgment of the latter writers is to be preferred before that of the ancients, because the moderns living nearer the times when the events were to be fulfilled, had surer marks to guide them in their expositions.” Lowth's Expos. Dan. xii. 4. Ver. g. he paraphrases thus, 66 Be content with what has been made known to thee: (Daniel) for the fuller explication of this prophecy is deferred till the time of its accomplishment draws near.” The opinion then of this learned commentator was, that God would so dispose things that obferving men should, from the signs of the times, be led to understand the true meaning of those prophecies, relating to the latter times of the world, which had not been before understood, so as hence to foresee the approaching downfal of Antichrist, and those other great events connected with it; and by which means the divine word will be much accredited, men be cured of their infidelity, and God hereby be honoured.
My mind has of late been much affected with the appearances of things in the Christian world, and with the occurrences which B 2
have, within these few
Occurrences which are unparelleled in the history of nations.
In America a revolution has taken place which is singular in its consequences, and especially as they concern the state of religion. We have long been told that if the Christian religion were left unprotected by establishments, and unsupported by emoluments, it would soon be borne down, and all its folemnities forsaken and despised. The experiment has here been made, and fact demonstrates the fallacy of such conclusions. The people are eased of a heavy burden, and pure and undefiled rcligion flourishes more than ever. Hirelings have withdrawn, but piety and virtue, charity and union increase. But a few years after this grand event, one of the first nations in Europe, long enAlaved, and blinded by fuperftition, at once broke its chains, and tore away the bandages with which popish priests had bound the eyes of the multitude. Civil liberty had long been forgotten, and, for more than a hundred years, no liberty of conscience was permitted to the insulted people. And as a nation they had for ages been made, by their tyrants, the scourge of all their neighbours. This people have, to the astonislımentof the whole civilized world, arose up as in one day, and, in opposition to the combined power of their king, their prieits, and nobles, have dared to say, We u žll be free We will have just and equal laws--No man frall punish, and no mar shall be punished but as the law commands-The poor as well as the rich, fhall be protekt:d--Conscience is the property of God, and every man fhall zvorfrip his Maker as he pleases-We will never make war, but in selfdefence, and will embrace all men as our brethren. And this was not the resolution of a few, it was the soleinn covenant of twenty-fix millions of people. What a phænomenon in the history of man! What an epoch in the history of the clıurch! But German despots and their creatures, whose existence depends on the ignorance and servility of mankind, fearing the influence of fuch an example, have been exerting all their power to crush this rising spirit of liberty, and to support the falling papacy. By whose hand was it that they and their remnant were driven back with loss and shame? His, who maketh the wrath of man to praise him.-Alas! the calamitics which oppofition to the most benevolent sentiments has occasion, ed! The passions of men have been enraged, and in the paroxism of refentment fear and despair, the best of causes, the cause of liberty,
has has been stained by the commission of crimes which apliet a great majority of their own nation, and all the genuine friends of liberty and justice throughout the world. None can contemplate them but with the keenest anguish, except those who are watching for occasions to flander all who resist oppressors, The circumItances of this wonderful revolution, mark it as an event of vaft importance, and as probably big with consequences beyond all conjecture..
The prophecies refpc&ting the downfal of the Antichristian usurpations, must have their accomplishment in fome era, it may be the present. It is therefore surely worth our while to inquire how far the predi&tions of God's word will agree with the rise and progress of known events.
Thus it has appeared to me, and the more I examine and think upon the subje&t, the more I am convinced, that the last days spoken of by-God's servants the prophets, are fast approaching; when Babylone the Great shall come in remembrance,, and God will avenge the blood of his faints, and the kingdoms of this world fhall become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Chrift; by not only profefling the religion of Jesus, but by ačting under its influence, and copying after his example who was meek and lowly in heart, and who came bó not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” And this kingdom shall not be a kingdom of anarchy, but a state of things, in which the governors and the governed, and all the different ranks in society will unite to promote the general good. It is not impossible that the present shaking of nations should bring about this desirable event. Some however object, that the progress of the French revolution has been marked with too much outrage and blood; and that the perfons engaged in it are of a character too bad to admit it to be from God, sa work which he approves, and which he intends as the introdu&ion to those happy days of which the prophets have spoken.
It would not be a very difficult talk to prove that those Ger. man princes and domestic foes to liberty, who have opposed the emancipation of France, from the yoke of royal and priestly tyranțs, have been the occasion of almost ail the horrors which have been committed, and, at their hands will much of the blood be required, which has been, or may hereafter be, shed, in this mighty and interesting struggle between men roused up by the severity of their sufferings, to claim the rights they had long been robbed of, and those continental tyrants who, for ages, have been the scourges of the human race. But granting that the leaders in the French revolution have been is atrociously wicked as represented, this does not, in the slightest degree, affect our hypothefis,
Though many of the instruments which Providence employs may be unworthy characters, and though the extraneous evil conneted with the revolution in France may afflict our hearts, and provoke not only our censure, but our indignation, still the great principles of it may demand our homage, and the end to be hoped for, the triumphs of truth and juftice over fuperftition, persecution, and oppression, may excite our joy. Cyrus waded through the blood of kings and armies to plunder the earth, and subject marions to his will; (he spared not children, Isa. xiii. 18.); but we have been taught to venerate his memory, as the righteous man of the cast. And why? Not because all his exploits. as his, were righteous, but because we have seen the issue, and been informed, that he was made an instrument in the hand of God, to execute his righteous judgments; that it was He who gave nations before him, and made him rule over kings, that Babylon might fit in the dust, and captive Ifrael go free. What was Henry the Eighth, who began our reformation ? A monster! What were his motives? The gratification of his lusts. What were the means which he employed? How blind is inan! We only know, that in God dwell the attributes of wisdom, justice, and goodness, but we are incapable of tracing the sphere of their operations. He saw fit to make use of the Jewish rulers, and to direct the worst of human pallions, for the purpose of effecting our redemption, by the death of Jesus Christ., Are cítablished systems of fuperftition and tyranny to be overthrown by a few smooth words of benevolence and wisdom? Happy if they could! Aro the dragon and the beasts which have so depopulated the earth for ages, to perish without convulfion? Read at They have shed the blood of faints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood, to drink, for they are worthy. When this period shall arrive there will be much work to do, for the execution of which the meek of the earth are by no means qualified. To çensure disorder, to
† Rev. xvi. 6,
shudder at blood-shed, and to pra&ti se mercy, is our duty; for nele ther God's secret counsels, nor his providential judgments, are to be the rule of our conduct. We know who hath said, Love your enemies, and do good to them that hate you. This is our rule.
Sir Isaac Newton had a very fagacious conjecture, which he told to Dr. Clark, from whom Mr. Whiston says he received it, viz. " That the over-bearing cyranny and power of the antichrif. tian party, which hath so long corrupted Christianity, and enflaved the Christian world, must be put a stop to and broken to pieces by the prevalence of infidelity, for some time, before primitive Chrif tianity could be restored ; which seems to be the very means now working in Europe for the same good and great end of Provi: dence," Poslibly," says the relater," he might think that our Saviour's words (Luke xviii. 8.) imply it. When the Son of Man cometh fhall he find faith on the earth? Or, possibly he might think
way so likely to do it in human affairs. It being, I acknowledge, too fadly evident, that there is not at present religion enough in Christendom, to put a stop to such antichristian tyranny and perfecution upon any genuine principles of Christianity.” Whifton's Efay on the Revelation of St. John. Second Edit. Page 321.
Printed in the Year 1744. This was a very fagacious conjecture indeed; and it is not unlikely that it may soon be realized. There are reasons for fearing that ere long infidelity will as generally prevail as the name of Christianity has done. It is in vain to flatter. It is too evident, that though the Christianity of individuals, among all ranks and feats, has been genuine, yet that of nations has been only in names By their fruits fhall ye know them. The generality of governments have been oppressive; a great majority of the ministers of religion have not only been men of the world, who have fought after noe thing but gain, but they have been cruel lords over God's heritage, persecuting instead of feeding the flock; teaching men to hate, oppress, and murder one another, for opinions, instead of incul. cating thofe lessons of love taught by Jefus Christ. Among the rich and great even the forms of religion are scarcely to be found. The fpoil of the poor is in their houfes, and because they are full they forget God, and are waxcd wanton. If we descend, pride, covetousness, deceit, oppression, riot, impurity, irreligion, impiety, perjury, and bafeness, present themselves, without secret search, at