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of Rome and all her appendages, the world in general, and especially the Christian world, will make swift advances in delusion and all kinds of wickedness, and infidelity will make great progress under the influence of the spirits of devils which are gone forth to the whole world; and it may be here observed, that the increase and spreading of this wickedness and spirit of infidelity will doubtless be the means of weakening and preparing the way for the overthrow of that church. The ten horns or kings, which shall hate the whore, and make her desolate and naked, and eat her flesh, and burn her with fire, will do this from a selfish, worldly spirit, and under the influ ence of infidelity and opposition to all kinds of religion. And the prevalence of deism and atheism in popish countries and nations, which are the natural fruit and offspring of the abominable practices and tyranny of the anti-Christian church, has been the means of exposing the superstition and wickedness of that church, and weakening the papal hierarchy. And deists, and other wicked men, may be made the instruments of pulling down that anti-Christian fabric yet further, as the heathen Romans were of destroying the corrupt church of Israel. If so, the fall of the pope will be so far from implying a revival of true religion, that it may be attended with the contrary, viz., infidelity, immorality, and all kinds of wickedness, as the means of it, so far as it will be effected by the instrumentality of men.
When John is describing the vision under the sixth vial, of the unclean spirits like frogs, going forth to the whole world to gather them to the battle, he stops before he has finished the relation, and Jesus Christ himself speaks the following words: "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garment, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." (Rev. xvi. 15.) By which he warns those in particular, who shall live when this vial is poured out, of their danger of being seduced by those evil spirits, and those who are corrupted by them, and behaving unworthy of their Christian character, and sets before them the strongest motives to deter them from apostasy, and induce them to be faithful to him, to watch and keep their garments, to continue spiritually awake, and properly attentive to all those things which concern them as Christians; to their situation and state, their own exercises and conduct, to the cause of Christ, and the enemies with whom they are surrounded; to maintain their Christian profession, and act agreeably to it, in the exercise of all Christian graces; trusting in the great Captain and General, who only can save them, and his church, and waiting for him with a patient continuance in well doing. He comes
as a thief. The thief does not make his presence and designs known to any but those who are joined with him, being his friends, and engaged in the same design with him. So, though Christ be present with his church and people, and is in the midst of his enemies, having all men and devils in his hands, and ordering and conducting every thing that is done by them, in this time of the greatest degeneracy, and high-handed wickedness, and knows how to answer his own ends by it and them, and to protect his people, and bring the wheel over his enemies; yet, in this, his coming and presence, he is not seen or thought of by the corrupt, wicked world. They think nothing of his presence, and see not his hand. He is seen only by his friends, who are engaged in the same cause with him, who watch and keep their garments. They see his hand in all those things, behold him present, and doing his own work, and are protected from all evil by him, while the wicked fall into mischief, and are destroying themselves. And when he comes forth to the battle, and rises up to the prey, and to punish the world for their wickedness, the wicked will not see him, they will not know their danger, or believe he is come, or will come, till evil falls upon them, and it is too late to escape. "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape." (1 Thess. v. 3.) And they only are safe who watch and keep their garments, and see and adore his hand and presence in all his works of terror and wrath. "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; 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. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." (Ps. ii. 10-12.)
It is of the greatest importance to Christians, who live at this day, and those who shall live in the time when the battle shall come on, that they should attend and discern the signs of the times, and watch and keep their garments, as this is the only way to be safe and happy. Our Lord gave the same direction and command, as to substance, when he was on earth, with reference to these same events. "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all those things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke xxi. 34-36.)
It will probably be suggested, that the representation of
such a dark scene, and evil time, to take place before the mil lennium will come, is matter of great discouragement, and tends to damp the spirits and hopes of Christians, and to discourage them from attempting to promote it, or praying for it, especially as it is set so far off from our day, so that none in this or the next generation are like to see it.
To such suggestions it is easy to reply,
1. If it be true, and clearly and abundantly foretold, that such evils are to take place, before the prosperous state of the church comes on, it is proper and desirable that all should know it, and attend to it, and it cannot be of any disadvan tage to any to know the truth in this case, but the contrary. This is revealed to the church for the instruction and benefit of Christians, that they may be informed and warned of what is coming, and be prepared for it, and not be disappointed in their expectations, and surprised when it shall take place; but when they see these things coming to pass, their faith may be strengthened, and they lift up their heads and rejoice, knowing that the redemption, the deliverance and prosperity of the church, draweth near.
2. These evils, both natural and moral, however undesirable and dreadful, in themselves, are necessary for the greatest good of the church of Christ, and to introduce the millennium in the best manner, and there will be then, and forever, more holiness, joy, and happiness than if these evils had never taken place. In this view, they are kind and merciful dispensations to the church. The apostles and prophets, and all the inhabitants of heaven, are represented as rejoicing in the evils, the punishments and destruction of the enemies of Christ and his church. (Rev. xviii. 20; xix. 1-6.) The affliction and servitude of the children of Israel in Egypt, and the wicked. ness, oppression, and cruelty exercised towards them by Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and the successive calamities and punishments brought on them by the hand of God, and their final overthrow and destruction in the Red Sea, were an unspeakable advantage to the former, and afforded matter of joy and praise. Therefore, Christians may now not only acqui esce, by even rejoice in these events, as ordered by God for wise ends, and necessary, in order to the greatest display of his righteousness and goodness, and to promote the best good and greatest happiness of his church.
3. God revealed to Abraham the evils which were coming on his posterity in Egypt, previous to their deliverance and prosperity, and the wickedness and punishment of the Egyp tians; not to discourage him, and sink his spirit, but to support and animate him, and strengthen his faith, and this did not
damp his joy, but, in the view of the whole, he rejoiced. And Jesus Christ foretold to his disciples the great evils which were coming on them, upon the Jews, the church, and the world, not to discourage and deject them, but that they might be forewarned, and expect them, so as not to be disappointed when they came, but have their faith confirmed, and possess their souls in patience when the dark scene should come on; and that they might be encouraged and rejoice, considering these events as tokens that their deliverance was at hand. He therefore said unto them, " And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh." (Luke xxi. 28.) This may be applied to Christians now. While you see the world gathering to the battle of the great day of God Almighty, and view this battle near at hand, lift up your heads and rejoice, that the church has got so near the end of darkness and affliction, and that the happy day of her deliverance and prosperity is so near at hand.
4. As to the distance of that happy day of salvation from this time, two hundred years, or near so many, will pass off before it will arrive, according to the calculation which has been made from Scripture, so that none, now on the stage of life, will live to see and enjoy it on earth. But much may be done by Christians who live in this age to promote its coming on in the proper time, by prayer, and promoting the interest of religion, and the conversion of sinners. For that good day would not come unless the cause of Christ be maintained to that time, and sinners be converted to keep up the church, and prevent the total extinction of it. In order to this, thousands must be converted, and there must be a succession of professing and real Christians down to that day. The doctrines, institutions, and duties of Christianity must be maintained, and there will doubtless be remarkable revivals of religion in many places, and knowledge will increase among true Christians, and there will be advances made in the purity of doctrines and worship, and all holy practice, by bringing all these nearer to the standard of the holy Scriptures. And the churches will be formed into a greater union with each other, being more and more conformed to the divine pattern contained in the Bible. Here then is work enough to do, by those who desire and are looking for such a day, to prepare the way for it, and it may be introduced in the proper time, and there is no want of encouragement to do it, even in this view, to be steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as they may know that their labor will not be in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor. xv. 58.)
And Christians may now have a great degree of enjoyment of that day, and joy in it, though they do not expect to live on earth till it shall come. True Christians are disinterested and benevolent to such a degree, that they can enjoy and rejoice in the good of others, even those who may live many ages hence, and in the good and prosperity of the church, and the advancement of the cause and kingdom of Christ in this world, though they should not live to see it. The stronger their faith is that this good day is coming, and the clearer and more constant view they have of it, and the more desirable it appears to them that there should be such a time, the higher enjoyment and greater joy they will have in it, and in the prospect of it. Thus Abraham looked forward by his faith, and saw this day of Christ, when all the nations of the earth should be blessed in him, and derived great comfort and joy in this prospect. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad." (John viii. 56.) Christians know that it will come on in the best time, as soon as it can be introduced by infinite wisdom and goodness; that there is no delay, but "God will hasten it in his time." In this sense Christ will come quickly to set up his kingdom in the whole world. He is on his way, coming as fast and as soon as he can, consistent with infinite wisdom. He is preparing the way, and ordering every thing in the best manner, so as in the most proper time to reign with his church on earth, and no time is lost. And what Christian can desire that it should be sooner, or before this time? Is it not enough that Jesus Christ has undertaken it, and will bring it on in the best manner, and the fittest time? And must not this give joy to every real Christian?
It is further to be observed, that though the Christians who live at this day will not see the millennium come while they are in the body on earth, yet they will see and enjoy it, when it shall come, in a much higher degree than they could do were they living on earth, or than those who will live on earth at that day. The powers, knowledge, and views of the spirits of the just made perfect are greatly enlarged in heaven, and they have a more clear and comprehensive view of the works of God, and a more particular knowledge of what is done in this world, especially of what relates to the work of redemption, the salvation of sinners, and the prosperity of the church and cause of Christ. There is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner that repenteth. The spirits of the just made perfect are with the angels, and must know all that passes in their presence, and must rejoice in such an event, as much or more than they. How great must be their joy then,