« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
were erected in all parts of the world, instead of the old Heathen temples.
This revolution was the greatest change in the face of things that ever came to pass in the world since the flood. Satan, the prince of darkness, that king and god of the Heathen world, was cast out. The roaring lion was conquered by the Lamb of God, in the strongest dominion that he ever had. This was a remarkable accomplishment of Jer. x. 11. The Gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. The chief part of the world was now brought utterly to cast off their old gods and their old religion, to which they had been accustomed much longer than any of their histories give an account of. They had been accustomed to worship the gods so long, that they knew not any beginning of it. It was formerly spoken of as a thing unknown for a nation to change their gods, Jer. ii. 10, 11; but now the greater part of the nations of the known world were brought to cast off all their former gods. That multitude of gods which they worshipped, were all forsaken. Thousands of them were cast away for the worship of the true God, and Christ the only Saviour: and there was a most remarkable fulfilment of Isa. ii. 17, 18. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughliness of men shall be made low : and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish. And since that, those gods which were once so famous in the world, as Jupiter, and Saturn and Minerva, and Juno, &c. are only heard of as things of old. They have had no temples, no altars, no worshippers, for many hundred years.
Now is come the end of the old Heathen world in its principal part, the Roman empire. And this great revolution, with that terrible destruction of the great men who had been persecutors, is compared, (Rev. vi.) to the end of the world, and Christ coming to judgment; and is most immediately signified under the sixth seal, which followed upon the souls under the altar crying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? This vision of the sixth seal, by the general consent of expositors, has respect to this downfal of the Heathen Roman empire; though it has a more remote respect to the day of judgment, of which this was a type. The day of judgment cannot be what is immediately intended; because we have an account of many events which were to come to pass after those of the sixth seal.
What came to pass now is also represented by the devil's being cast out of heaven to the earth. In his great strength and glory, over that mighty Roman empire, he had exalted his throne up to heaven. But now he fell like lightning from hea
ven, and his kingdom was confined to the meaner and more barbarous nations, or to the lower parts of the world. This is the event foretold, Rev. xii. 9, &c. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him, &c. Satan bad formerly tempted Cbrist, and promised to give him the glory of the kingdoms of the world; but now he is obliged to give it to him even against his will. This was a glorious fulfilment of that promise which God made to his Son, Isa. liii. 12. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong ; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgres
This was a great fulfilment of prophecies concerning the glorious time of the gospel, and particularly those of Daniel. Now it pleased the Lord God of heaven to set up a kingdom on the ruins of Satan's kingdom; and such honour does the Father put upon Christ for the disgrace he suffered when on earth.
From what has been said of the success of the gospel from Christ's ascension to the time of Constantine, we may deduce a strong argument for the truth of the Christian religion, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is really from God. Particularly,
1. We may gather from what has been said, that it is the gospel, and that only, which has actually been the means of bringing the world to the knowledge of the true God. That those are no Gods whom the Heathen worshipped, and that there is but one only God, is what, now since the gospel has so taught us, we can see to be truth by our own reason. It is plainly agreeable to the light of nature; and it can be easily shown by reason to be demonstrably true. The very Deists themselves acknowledge, that it can be demonstrated, that there is one God, and but one, who has made and governs the world. But now it is evident that it is the gospel, and that only, which has actually been the means of bringing men to the knowledge of this truth. It was not the instructions of philosophers; they tried in vain : The world by wisdom knew not God. Till the gospel and the holy scriptures came abroad, all the world lay in ignorance of the true God, and in the greatest darkness with respect to religion, embracing the absurdest opinions and practices, which all civilized nations now acknowledge to be childish fooleries. The light of nature, their own reason, and all the wisdom of learned men, signified nothing till the scriptures came. But when these came abroad,
. they were successful to bring the world to an acknowledgment of the one only true God, and to worship and serve him.
And hence it is, that all that part of the world which now acknowledges one only true God-Cbristians, Jews, Mahometans, and even Deists-originally came to own bim. It is owing to this that they are not in general at this day left in Heathenish darkness. They have it all, either immediately from the scriptures, or by tradition from their fathers, who had it first from the scriptures. And doubtless those who now despise the scriptures, and boast of the strength of their own reason, as being sufficient to lead into the knowledge of the one true God, if the gospel had never come abroad in the world to enlighten their forefathers, would have been as sottish and brutish idolaters as the world in general was before the gospel came abroad. The Mahometans, who own but one true God, at first borrowed the notion from the scriptures; for the first Mahometans had been educated in the Christian religion, and apostatized from it. And this is evident, that the scriptures were designed of God to be the proper means to bring the world to the knowledge of himself, rather than human reason, or any thing else. For it is unreasonable to suppose, that the gospel, and that only wbich God never designed as the proper mean for obtaining this effect, should actually obtain it; and that after human reason, which he designed as the proper mean, had been tried for a great many ages, without any effect. If the scriptures be not the word of God, then they are nothing but darkness and delusion, yea, the greatest delusion that ever was. Now, is it reasonable to suppose, that God in his providence would make use of falsehood and delusion, to bring the world to the knowledge of himseli, and that no part of it should be brought to the knowledge of him any other way?
2. The gospel prevailing as it did against such powerful opposition, plainly shows the hand of God. The Roman government, that so violently set itself to binder the success of the gospel, and to subdue the church of Christ, was the most powerful that ever was in the world, and not only so, but they seemed to have the church in their hands. The Christians who were under their command, never took up arms to defend themselves; they armed themselves with nothing but patience, and such like spiritual weapons; and yet this mighty power could not conquer, but, on the contrary, Christianity conquered them. The Roman empire bad subdued many mighty and potent kingdoms; they subdued the Grecian monarchy, though it made the utmost resistance; and yet they could not conquer the church, which was in their hands; but, on the contrary, were subdued, and finally triumphed over by the church.
3. No other sufficient cause can possibly be assigned for VOL. V.
this propagation of the gòspel, but only God's own power. There was certainly some reason. Here was a great and wonderful effect; and this effect was not without some cause. Now, what other cause can be devised but only the divine power? It was not the outward strength of the instruments which were employed in it. At first the gospel was preached only by a few fishermen, who were without power and worldly interest to support them. It was not their craft and policy that produced this wonderful effect; for they were poor illiterate men. It was not the agreeableness of the story they had to tell to the notions and principles of mankind. This was no pleasant fable: a crucified God and Saviour was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness. It was not the agreeableness of their doctrines to the dispositions of men ; for nothing is more contrary to the corruptions of men than the pure doctrines of the gospel. This effect, therefore, can have proceeded from no other cause than the power and agency of God; and if the power of God was thus exercised to cause the gospel to prevail, then the gospel is his word; for surely God does not use his almighty power to promote a mere imposture and delusion.
4. This success is agreeable to what Christ and his apostles foretold. Matt. xvi. 18. Upon this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. John xii. 24. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat
I fall into the ground, and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. And ver. 31, 32. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
John xvi. 8. When he (the comforter) is come, he will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judge ment --because the prince of this world is judged.
So the apostle Paul, in 1 Cor. chap. i. 21-28, declares, how that after the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe; and that God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.--If any man foretels a thing, very likely in itself to come to pass, from causes which can be foreseen, it is no great argument of a revelation from God: but when a thing is foretold which is very unlikely ever to come to pass, is entirely contrary to the common course of things, and yet it does come to pass just agreeable to the prediction, this is a strong argument that the prediction was from God. Thus the consideration of the manner of the propaga.
: tion and success of the gospel during the time which has been spoken of, affords great evidence that the scriptures are the word of God.
The Success of Redemption from the Time of Constantine to
the Rise of Antichrist.
I am now to show how the success of Christ's redemption is carried on from the overthrow of the Heathen Roman empire in the time of Constantine the Great, till the rise of Antichrist. And in order to a more clear view of the great works of God in accomplishing the success of Christ's redemption, and our seeing the glory of them, it will be necessary, as in the foregoing periods, to consider not only the success itself, but the opposition made to it.
I. The opposition. Satan, the great red dragon, after so sore a conflict with Michael and his angels for the greater part of three hundred years, was at last entirely routed and vanquished; so that he was cast down, as it were, from heaven to the earth. Yet he does not give over his opposition to the woman, the church of Christ, concerning which all this conflict hael been; but is still in a rage, renews his attempts, and has recourse to new devices against the church. The serpent, after he is cast out of heaven to the earth, casts out of his mouth water ás a flood, to cause the woman to be carried
of the flood. The opposition that be made to the church of Christ before the rise of Antichrist, was principally of two sorts. It was either by corrupting the church of Christ with heresies, or by new endeavours to restore Paganism.
1. After the destruction of the Heathen Roman empire, Satan infested the church with heresies. Though there had been so glorious a work of God in delivering the church from her Heathen persecutors, and overthrowing the Heathen empire; yet the days of the church's travail not being ended, and the set time of her prosperity not being yet come, (as being what was to succeed the fall of Antichrist,) therefore the peace and prosperity which the church enjoyed in Constantine's time, was but very short. It was a respite, which gave the church a time of peace and silence, as it were, for half an hour, wherein the four angels beld the four winds from blowing, till the servants of God should be sealed in their foreheads. But