« PreviousContinue »
is. Civilization as well as barbarism has its Goths and Vandals, its Alarics and Geneserics. Steamers, and locomotives, and electric telegraphs are accepted as the gods of the modern pantheon, and the money power worshipped as the Jupiter of modern times, and crystal palaces and national exhibitions, good and expedient and useful in their place, are hailed as the jubilees of Europe. Rulers, as soon as they scent the unpopularity that overtakes the wisest, have recourse to war to cover up the discontent that begins to seethe about their thrones. Democrats, too, the most reckless of tyrants, are always the fiercest clamourers for war. It is the loss or abnegation of religion which means reconstruction and reunion, that accounts for much of this unhappy state of things. Were it supreme in the convictions and the consciencies of all, sovereignty would be fatherhood, loyalty love, and service and even sacrifice a delight. The earliest motto, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will to men,” accepted and translated into action, would rectify and restore all. Its prescriptions, like leaves of the tree of life, would heal the nations. It would kindle upon earth a festal glory, and bind into sisterhood alienated peoples; allay animosities as they rise, and raise the temperature of love to a fervour and a height that would create the dawn of a millennial day. But, alas! commerce, most precious in itself, is substituted as the bond of nations for that religion which alone is so. Expediency is adopted as the policy of cabinets, and
statesmen regard it as their only mission to tide over the difficulties of to-day, and to leave to-morrow to take care of itself. Obedience to,
Obedience to the powers that be, instead of flowing from a divine instinct felt in the heart and throbbing in its beat, has become an affair of calculation. That mysterious charm which binds subjects to the sovereign and inspires all the ligaments of society, and attracts and attaches individuals to the nation, rendering allegiance to the throne the inspiration of the affections, not the calculation of the intellect, which gains protection while it gives loyalty, which repudiates all temptation to be faithless, and impels to obey because it is the impulse of virtue, has been exchanged for a cold and unreliable and ignoble obligation. Principle has ceased to be popular. It is denounced as intolerance or stigmatized as bigotry. Society has lost its foothold. Nations have lifted the anchors of their safety. Rulers are steering by the meteor-lights of earth instead of the lode-stars of the sky. The nations are broken up into peoples, and the only cement left is self-interest. Churches have become camps, and the weapons of their warfare carnal, and therefore feeble against the powers of evil, and formidable only against truth and love and peace.
In all likelihood matters will grow worse before they get better, and chaos precede a reconstruction that will last.
If, as the most thoughtful writers on prophecy believe, we are arrived at the last times of our present economy, and nearing the margin of a better and brighter, we
must expect the advent of such evils and of worse than these. “This know also, that in the last days ' perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof."
It would thus appear that the twilight we feel is not the dawn of approaching day, but of thickening night. Degradation seems to be the law of our dispensation, like the law of prehistoric life. Descent, not elevation, is the prevailing direction, and the burning and shining lights that break on the world in succession serve only to disclose the downward progress of the world and the rapidity of its descent.
THE TIME OF SEDUCING SPIRITS.
THREE unclean spirits, described in Rev. xvi., can be identified by our identifying the sources from which they respectively emanate. The "unclean spirits” of St John are the seducing spirits of Paul. The first is stated to come out of the mouth of “ the dragon,” that is, the infidel, rationalistic, and demo
The second is from the mouth of “the beast," that is, the Romish apostate power.
The third emerges from the mouth of “the false prophet,” that is, the Tractarianism of 20 years ago or the Ritualism of the present day.
These three evil spirits have been active ever since the sixth vial was poured out—apparent antagonists, they are really co-operative. Strangers in appearance, they are near and intimate relatives in fact. The victories of one open up the way for the action of the other.
No signs of the deepening twilight of the age are more decisive or more easily and universally felt.
Rationalism, Romanism, and Ritualism are the dominant propagandists of 1867, assailing by sap or by force the evangelical faith ; they have been often confuted, but they are not yet conquered. One relieves the other. Rationalism embraces in its broad bosom Ritualism and Romanism as equally welcome, earnest, and active. Romanism welcomes Ritualism as a growing aspirant to her fellowship, and Rationalism is hailed as a pioneer disintegrating and destructive, and thereby opening up a way for the progress of her sister spirits.
This unclean spirit was first heard at the pouring out of the sixth vial, croaking in the notorious “Essays and Reviews,” glorying in a destructive criticism, exhaustive of the most precious living truths, and shattering the deep convictions of many who were not prepared to argue; still less to hear infidelity proclaimed by men ordained to defend the Bible, and to preach the gospel of Christ. Young men, hating the holy restraints of Christianity, have accepted the Rationalism that tolerates the lives they prefer to lead.
Newspapers, professing a cynic superiority to all religion, and claiming to look down with contemptuous dignity on all disputes about dogmas and doctrines, teach their readers to feel or believe that the highest order of intellect never bows to the teachings of an effete and obsolete age, or descends to wrangle