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2. The next form of opposition to the march of holiness is that of Imposture. This was introduced by Mahomed. It was a system accommodated to the condition of a mingled population, composed of Pagans, Jews, and nominal Christians, all in a state of great ignorance and deep moral debasement. By complimenting Abraham and Moses, he beguiled the Jew ; by conceding to the Saviour the rank of a prophet, he seduced the degenerate Christian ; and by giving, ample license to sensuality, in time and eternity, he secured the Pagan : and what persuasion failed to accomplish, was finished by the sword. Thus one hundred and forty millions have been grouped together under the most ferocious and horrid despotism that ever warred against Heaven, or tormented man. Over all these the smoke from the bottomless pit has ascended, intercepting the light of heaven, and dooming them for centuries to “ darkness visible.”:
3. Cotemporaneously with this system of imposture, and like it a subject of prophecy, arose the Papal superstition, in the form of a corrupted Christianity, and adapted to a state of intellectual improvement where the grossness of Mahomedan imposture might not be likely to prevail. This has been, and is still, the master-piece of that wisdom which is from beneath ; concentrating the bad influence of all past systems ; satisfactory to the pagan, and not alarming to the degenerate Christian; dazzling through the medium of sense ; and giving such a license to sin, or such a cheap escape from its penalties, as allayed all fear, and gave a license to boundless indulgence.
Until this horrid system arose, the resistance made to the church of God had been planted without her walls. Now the sacred citadel is assailed and entered. Her friends are driven out, subjected to obloquy and death. The perverted authority of Heaven, and the sacred name of Christianity herself, and all the glorious and fearful sanctions of eternity are arrayed against the pure gospel. Instead of the fold of Christ, the church became a ferocious beast, not sparing the flock : instead of a pure virgin, the mother of harlots, corrupting the nations. Instead of reflecting the light of the Sun of rightcousness, every orb was eclipsed ; every candlestick removed out of its place; while the night of ages settled down upon the earth. In this tremendous period, knowledge and virtue expired, and corruption and violence, as before the flood, filled the earth. The great merchandise was in the souls of men ; the chief staples, indulgences to sin ; and nothing but holiness of heart and life was absolutely unpardonable.
Here, around the standard of Christ, the kings of the earth took counsel against the Lord and his Anointed, to break his bands and cast away his cords. And here the atheist and the Jew, the infidel and the libertine, could wear the sacred vestments; and make war upon the Saviour and his friends.
Popery is a system, where science and ignorance, refinement and barbarism, wisdom and stupidity, taste and animalism, mistaken zeal and malignant enmity, may sanctimoniously pour out their virulence against the gospel, and cry, Hosanna, while they go forth to shed the blood, and to wear out the patience of the saints. And though by revolutions it has been shaken, and compelled by motives of policy to cease a little from
blood, not a principle of this system has been abandoned. All the wiles of ages past are put in requisition now, to heal the fatal wounds which the beast has received ; and to render the system still more powerful and terrific. The leaven is in secret and in open operation, in this country; and the quick action of the beast to the touch of the spear, in Palestine, shows that he is neither dead nor asleep. And considering the civilization, and wealth, and science, which the system comprehends, it is from Popery, no doubt, that the gospel is destined to experience the last and most determined resistance.
4. Another form of resistance to the gospel is to be anticipated from the despotic governments of the earth-so inconsistent in their influence with that illumination of mind and melioration of heart, which, it is predicted, shall prevail, and which the blessed gospel never fails to produce. Hence it may be expected, that despots will take counsel against the Lord, as the march of intellect, and piety, and civil liberty, shall minister alarm.
To what extent forcible resistance will be made to the gospel, it is not our object now to inquire; or whether republican forms of government will supplant the ancient dynasties. It is enough to know, that all the governments who yield to the intimations of that Providence which sends out religion and civil liberty upon the earth, will be safe and happy; and that all who make resistance, will be agitated by revolutions, and destroyed by heavy judgments. Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; and be instructed, ye judges of the earth : Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling : Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.
5. Another source of resistance to Christianity is that of crime in its varied forms. A vast amount of capital is embarked in enterprises which directly or indirectly war against morality. All this, when the spirit of Christianity shall prevail, will be contraband, and be withdrawn. The power of steam shall not needlessly violate holy time, nor the sail, without cause, whiten in the Sabbath sun, and spread itself to pervert the breath of heaven. Theatres, those “ schools of morality,” falsely so called, shall cease to beguile unstable souls, whose feet go down to death, whose steps take hold on hell
. Christianity, as she prevails, will form a public sentiment that will make virtue blush at the thought of meeting within the same walls, and breathing the same polluted air, and applauding the same exhi. bitions, with the most debased and wretched portion of the community. All who thrive and grow rich amid the desolations of inebriation, and all who desire to do wickedly without loss of reputation, or annoyance of conscience, will feel instinctively the approach of religion : and as their craft shall be in danger, will raise a loud and bitter cry— Great is Diana, great is Diana.'
Nor are the maxims of more reputable trade in such nice accordance with the “golden rule," as to need no revision, or to present no resistance to the gospel, as she moves on to make it the universal actual law of commercial intercourse : while the entire world of honour must be expected to stand against that gospel which forbids murder, and inculcates forgiveness, and arrays public sentiment against the guilty.
If the gospel would probibit only acknowledged immoralities, and wink at human weaknesses, the whole pleasure-loving world would consent to an
armistice, and permit her to move on without much complaint. But the inexorable requisitions of purity of heart and self-denial, cannot fail to bring out against her a multitudinous and determined resistance. The haters of her uncharitableness, and the lovers of a more liberal way, and all classes of the openly wicked, will, it may be expected, as the light increases and enmity rises, be condensed into a firmer and firmer phalanx of opposition. And now will the alarm be sounded about popery and priest-craft, by just that class of men, who, in papal countries, love darkness, and most cheerfully purchase indulgences to sin ; and who, in this country, should the darkness of popery be permitted to come upon us, would be the first to hail it as a covert for their crimes and a quietus for their consciences. And yet panic-struck will many become about liberty of conscience, who long since have ceased to have any conscience; and suddenly will many fall in love with civil liberty, who, all their days and with all their might, have, by their pernicious influence, been employed in attempts to undermine her deep foundations.
6. To cover the nakedness of this forlorn hope of opposition to the gospel, a more liberal sort of religion must be introduced, which shall keep them in countenance, and enable them to wield the name and institutions of Christianity against Christianity--including so much truth as may serve to beguile, but so little as cannot avail to save—sustained by such as live in pleasure, and will not bow the knee to Christ. The time will have come, when the light of science and of Christianity will have rendered obsolete the grossness of idolatry, the imposture of Mahomed, the superstitions of popery, and the impurity of infidelity. A religion must rise, therefore, under the last touchings and finishings of art, where infidels may be received without conversion ; and where they may be converted with scarce a perceptible change in doctrine, heart, or life; and where, as in papal countries, the thoughtless, and the gay, and the beautiful, and the dissipated, may float together down the stream, to the sounds of music, and drink the lethean cup, and wake not till their redemption has ceased for ever. All this abomination of desolation is predicted, as attending the last triumphs of pure Christianity. And he said, Go thy way, Daniel, for the words are closed up, and sealed, till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried: but the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
7. One other source of opposition to the progress of vital Christianity remains to be mentioned. There may be an attempt to wield the church against herself, by corrupting the purity of revivals of religion. Terrible, by the power of revivals, as an army with banners, her victory is secure, unless fanaticism can be substituted for pure religion, and her compact masses be broken and scattered by the commotion of unhallowed passions within. In this manner was the glory of the Reformation eclipsed, and vital religion, in the time of Cromwell, made a scoff and a by-word. The same attempt was made in New England early in the days of our fathers. It was repeated in the time of Whitefield and the immortal Edwards, with lamentable, though with but partial success. As revivals shall become more extensive, and the Spirit of God shall awaken larger portions of the
community at once, opportunity will be afforded to the enemy-and, apprised of his devices, we ought not to think that the opportunity will be neglected--of mingling false fire with holy zeal, for the purpose of throwing discredit upon a work which threatens a speedy overthrow of his empire.
All these great divisions of systematic opposition to the gospel have, where circumstances allowed, been defended by the sword. Christianity, in her first attempts to disenthral the world, met the storms of ten persecutions, protracted through a period of three hundred years.
The false prophet established, and still maintains, his empire by force. It is death to turn from Mahomed to Jesus Christ. And as to Popery, in her dominions, all the wiles and corruptions of idolatry and imposture have been condensed and wielded with infernal wisdom and malignity against the gospel, ever since the apocalyptic kings gave their power to the beast. And when atheism, for a little moment, abolished popery, its terrific power was, at the same moment, directed with indiscriminate fury against Christianity. The Bible was burnt. The Sabbath blotted out. The existence of God denied : and death proclaimed an eternal sleep.
The Arian heresy, protected by the sword, wielded against the truth a furious persecution. In Holland, Arminius attempted to enlist both literature and the civil arm for the propagation of his sentiments, and, to some extent, succeeded. At Geneva, the enemies of evangelical sentiment, as appears from recent events, do not rely on charity, and enlightened reason, and liberty of conscience ; but upon the civil power, to protect them in their usurpations, and to keep back the truth.
And now, can such varied and mighty resistance be overcome? Can the carth be enlightened? Can the nations be disenthraled? Can the whole creation, which has groaned and travailed together in pain until now, be brought out of bondage into glorious liberty? Yes. All this can be done, and will be done. Our next inquiry then is,
By what Means SHALL EVENTS SO DESIRABLE BE ACCOMPLISHED ?
First-By the judgments of Heaven, in which the Son of Man will come upon the strong man armed, and take away his armour.
Secondly—By the universal propagation of the gospel ; before the light of which, idolatry, imposture, and superstition, will retreat abashed. And,
Thirdly-By frequent, and, at Jast, general revivals of religion ; giving resistless power to the gospel, as it is preached to every creature,
Then will come to pass that which is written. Great voices will be heard in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. As the voice of many waters, and of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
It is manifest from prophecy, and clearly to be anticipated from the existing state of the world, that great commotions and distress of nations will exist, antecedent to the spiritual, universal reign of Christ on the earth. Some have supposed that these calamities will fall alike upon the church and the world ; that as yet the witnesses are to be slain ; and that for three years at least, Christianity will seem to be blotted from the earth. Whereas, manifestly, the judgments which are to precede the glory of the latter day,
are to fall almost exclusively upon anti-christian nations. And if the witnesses are yet to be slain, they are to be slain in the street of that great city, which, spiritually, is called “Sodom and Egypt”-prophetic symbols, which have been understood to designate countries subject' to the dominion of Anti-Christ. The very struggle to suppress vital Christianity in papa! countries, called the slaying of the witnesses, may be, and probably will be, the result of moral causes now in powerful operation. Science, and commerce, and the progress of evangelical religion, are fast apprising mankind of their rights, and awakening the desire of civil and religious liberty. And this slaying of the witnesses may be the last struggle of those despotisms, to arrest the march of truth and freedom. It may be the collision between light and darkness-between despotism and liberty—which shall call out the kings of the earth to the battle of the great day of God Almighty; when He, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, on whose head are many crowns, and whose vesture is dipped in blood, shall smite the nations with the sword that goeth out of his mouth, and rule them with a rod of iron, and tread the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God; when the angel standing in the sun, shall summon the fowls of the heavens to the supper of the great God—to eat the flesh of kings, and of captains, and of mighty men.
But, without attempting a minute exposition of prophecy, nothing is more plainly revealed, than the visitation of the earth with unparalleled judgments and revolutions, preparatory to that state of light and peace which is to bless the world. So long as Satan can wield the power of despotic governments against the truth, he can hold his goods in peace. But these defences, a Stronger than he will take away, when, in awful judgments, He shall come upon him. He shall overturn, and overturn, until He, whose right it is, shall reign. The day of vengeance is in his heart, because the year of his redeemed is come. The foundations of the earth do shake; the earth is utterly broken down; the earth is clean dissolved; the earth is moved exceedingly; the earth shall reel to and fro; and the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth; and they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit; and shall be shut up in the prison. Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun shall be ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air ; and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake and so grcat.
One of these moral earthquakes has already shaken Europe to its centre ; and the thunderings and heavings of the unquiet earth proclaim, that one wo is past, and behold, another wo cometh quickly.
When these systems of physical resistance are destroyed, then will the time have come to extend the institutions of the Gospel throughout the world. Benevolence, like the air, will move to fill up the vacuum. Like the light
* Rev. xix. 17, 18.