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From the restoration of the Gospel, the revival of true religion, and the downfal of the spiritual Babylon, may be distinctly dated. At the reformation, the usurped dominion of superstition and priestcraft was shaken to its very foundation, and from this time the power of the Romish church has
continued to decline, each succeeding age producing further abridgments of its influence and authority. Nor was this occasioned alone by the light which the Gospel diffused, but in part also by the disclosure of those frauds which had been practised by the priesthood; these together excited a general disposition to shake off their tyrannical usurpation.
An empire, however, founded upon worldly interest, supported by the indulgence of the passions, and which had so long subsisted, was not likely to fall without a struggle. Every effort would naturally be made, and every artifice be employed, to prolong the reign of Antichrist. And those who had been hitherto deluded by him, but whose eyes at length were opened, and who, in consequence, became desirous of emancipation from their thraldom, must feel the weight of that tyranny which they had helped to establish and support. The calamities attendant upon this struggle must needs fall upon those who had been the supporters of Antichrist; the true Christian can have no participation in them; whether they consist in the loss of those worldly goods which were the main object of this usurpation, in the unavailing efforts to escape from and subvert this tyranny, or in the remorse felt by those who at length become sensible of their former error and delusion in supporting it.
Of these evils a general view will be presented under the symbols of harvest and vintage, and a particular detail under the seven vials.
Of the evils resulting from a system of delusion and falsehood, one is its laying the foundation for infidelity and atheism. For, as knowledge increases, and the mind becomes
enlightened, the imposture will be detected, and none but the blindly ignorant, or the foolishly credulous, will any longer be imposed upon. But while the system of delusion thus works its own downfal, it is not to be supposed that those who once held it sacred, and never knew a more perfect religion, will, on rejecting it, select some other from among the number of those which they have hitherto despised or abhorred. The consequence to be expected is rather, that they will for a time regard every other form of religion as a system of priestcraft and imposture like their own; and thus infidelity or atheism naturally follows.
This evil has been abundantly exemplified during the last three centuries; for since the revival of learning has exposed the impositions of the Romish church, and excited resistance to its usurped authority at the reformation, we have witnessed the rise and progress of infidelity, secretly working its way, and diffusing its influence through the writings of wits, sages, and philosophers. It reached its summit at the French revolution, when an event unparalleled in history occurred, a national renunciation of the belief in God and a future state.
The next evil that results from a system of fraud and imposture, is immorality; following as a natural consequence of infidelity, which removes at once the restraints imposed both by superstition and by religion; for the worst form of religion imposes some moral restraint, and is preferable to absolute atheism. The consequence that ensues from the removal of this restraint, is to loosen the bonds of social order; and as these evils have been coexistent, namely, infidelity and immorality, so they reached their summit at the same period, and both received ample illustration in the horrors committed during the French revolution.
But the general view here offered of the calamities that flow from the corruptions of religion, will be more minutely detailed in the sequel.