« PreviousContinue »
similar, perhaps even superior, in holiness and genuine piety to the first Christians. All this, I repeat it, may easily be conceived; for who shall presume to limit the extent of God's operations? And, whether I be right or wrong in expecting a miraculous interference of the Divine Word, we are certainly led from prophecy to believe, that some such general diffusion of holiness will assuredly take place, and with it (what is indeed its natural consequence) a general diffusion of happiness.
This period, we are taught to expect, will be introduced by the most dreadful political convulsions that the world ever witnessed. Before "the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven," to adopt the language of Daniel, "shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High," the tyranny of the two little horns must be broken, and the empire of the great Roman beast, in his last form and under his last head, must be dissolved. In the midst of the expiring struggles of God's enemies, the Jews must be restored and converted. And thus at length, when this tremendous tempest shall have exhausted itself, the glorious day of millennian happiness shall dawn upon a long benighted and distracted world.
What part we may be destined to take in these awful events, may well afford matter of anxious anticipation to all of us, more especially when the present situation of Europe is considered with a reference to prophecy. That some prevailing maritime power of faithful worshippers will be chiefly instrumental in« converting and restoring a part of the Jewish nation,' seems to be declared in Scripture more than once with sufficient plainness: but I am persuaded that your Lordship will agree with me, that we may employ ourselves much more profitably in labouring to diffuse
the knowledge of the Gospel and to increase among us the number of the truly pious, than in speculating upon the probability or improbability of our being the maritime power in question. We live in times, which ?)iight produce seriousness even in the most unthinking; and I am willing to hope, that there actually has been of late years a considerable increase of genuine religion among us. Our situation peculiarly fits us to be the ark, as it were, of God's Church. We must beware of making him our enemy, and then we need not fear what man can do unto us. But, however matters may terminate, your Lordship will have the satisfaction of reflecting, that you have not been silent; that you have raised your voice, as a watchman of our Israel; and that, in the solemnity of what you have conceived might be a last address, you have borne your testimony against any relapse into a superstition, from which our pious forefathers separated themselves,, and which is destined to fall in the course of God's righteous judgments, ere the glorious kingdom of the mountain shall commence.
I have the honour to be
Your Lordship's most obliged
1 He plan, which I have pursued in the following work> is the same as that which I adopted in my Dissertation on the 1260 years. It was finished in the spring of the year 1806: and, instead of altering the text, such events as have since occurred, that appeared worthy of our observation, I have animadverted upon in the notes.
The longer I have considered the subject, the more I am confirmed in my former opinions. The passing train of events, the long period of time during which the abominations of Popery have been suffered to prevail from .whatever precise era the appointed three times and a half ought to be computed, the very spirit of the age itfelf, all serve to shew, that we cannot be very far removed from what Daniel calls the time of the end. At least, whatever may be thought of the other particulars, this last, I mean the spirit of the age, seems to me sufficiently decisive. "When the Son of man cometh," said our Lord,' "shall he find faith on the earth?" The present age has been boastfully termed the age of reason : and, when we consider the sense in which it has been so termed, we can scarcely avoid esteeming the appellation synonymous with the age of unbelief. Individual unbelief indeed has existed in all ages of the church; but never was there an age, in which infidelity has been so widely aiid so systematically diffused; never was there an age, to which the emphatic question of Christ so closely applied, as the present. Nor am-1 at all singular in my opinion. The question of our Lord, as it has been well observed by a late eminent divine, certainly "gives us reason to expect, that, at the coming of the Son of man, faith shall
scarcely be found on earth. It is obvious therefore to conclude, that, in proportion as the faith decays, the coming of Christ is drawing near. The scoffers of the last days may insolently demand of us, as it was foretold they should, where is the promise of his coming? and object, that there is no sign of it, for that all things continue as they were. But this cannot now be said with truth. All things do not continue as they were. There hath been a marvellous change of late in the affairs of this, world and in the state of religion, with which all serious men are alarmed, justly apprehending that some still, greater event is to follow. The signs of the times, to those who can read them, are many *."
Some have supposed, that the 1260 years are already expired, and that their expiration took place about the commencement of the French revolution. As yet I have, seen no sufficient reasons to induce me to assent to this opinion. According to the most natural interpretation of Dan. xii. 6, 7, the interpretation adopted by Mr. Mede. and other eminent expositors, the interpretation which best harmonizes with parallel prophecies, the Jews will begin to be restored so soon as the three times and a half shall have expired. But the Jews have not begun to be restored. Therefore we scarcely seem warranted in supposing that the three times and a half 'have expired. However this may be, I have little doubt that the wonderful shaking of nations during these last eighteen years is preparatory to the return and conversion of God's chosen people, and to the final overthrow of his congregated enemies.
In citing the various prophecies which relate to these events, I have adhered to no one translation in particular, but have given that version of them, by whomsoever proposed, which appeared to me best to express their true meaning. Any material variation from the established translation is noticed and defended in the margin. On this account, as well as for another reason, I have found it expedient to cite the prophecies in question at full length. In our common version, one and the same
* Jones's Works, Vol. vi. p. 358.