« PreviousContinue »
2 dly, Who knows whether there were at that time more than seven considerable Churches in Afia? The other were so very much below these, for Dignity, Grandure & Excellency, that the H. Spirit judged it not proper to make any account of them, the Advertisements that he gives to these seven Churches being sufficient for the Disorders which might be in all the others, which Disor ders were apparently the same. For 'tis usuall enough for little flocks to follow the examples of the greater ones.
Lastly, it doth not appear that the holy Spirit, in what follows, hath divided the dus ration of the Church since J. Christ's time to the end of the world, or to the coming of Jesus Christ's Kingdom into seven Periods. For the seven seals, the seven Trumpets, the seven Vialls, do not each of them take up all time. They succeed one another. The seventhi. seal brings forth seven Trumpets , & the sixth Trumpet is subdivided into seven Vialls. It had been very methodical in a Reve. lation , after having obscurely mark'd out the seven Periods of the Church by the seven Epistles, to describe the same times by seven other Characters more observable & more distinct. This is indeed what some modern writers do believe that God hath done; pretending that the seven seals & the seven Trumpets are co•temporary, & divide the duration of the Christian Church into seven Periods , as the seven Epistles to the seven Churches do. But thiş opinion will not appear probable to those
that study the Prophecies & the events with
I look on that as nothing that is said to
Churches in that time ? Besides, tho we do not know the particulars of those events, yet there is nothing in the seven Epistles which doth not very well agree with the Estate of the Church that then was; without any necessity to seek out events myftically meant in future ages.
The principal thing that hinders me from Theapclosing with the opinion of the Prophetical plications sense of the Epistles , is that I do not find that made of the applications which are made of them to the seven the Ages that have past since the Apostles, to the ledoanswer expectation. 'Tis true, there are some ven Periplaces where the applications are not unhapo not happy. But seeing this is not to be met with py.
I believe that they have hit
The ex. Divine, that lived & died in the beginning of of the my- this age. According to him the Church of the reven Ephesus signifies the Primitive Church of the Churches three first Ages. The Praises which the H. by Forbes.
Spirit gives it, I know thy works & thy labour,
agree to the Church of the three first ages. But those which God gives to the Church of Thyatira afterwards are greater. Yet 'tis certain that the fourth Period of the Church did not come near the Church of the three first Ages in fervency & purity. The Nicolaitans that are spoken of in this Epistle to the Church of Ephesus, may signifie all the Hereticks, all the kinds being meant by one. But seeing the Church of all Ages hath had its Hereticks, this character can't distinguish this Pea riod from the others.
The second Epistle is to the Church of Smyrna , & Forbes would have this to be the Period in which the Arrians , Macedonians, Nestorians & Eutychians reigned. That is to say, that this period will comprehend the fourth , & the fifth Age. But how.can these words be applied to those Ages know thy works thy Tribulation , poverty
. ( but thou art rich) & I know the blasphemy of those that say they are fews but are not, but are the Synagogue of Satan? See here are praises that are no whit' inferiour to those that were given to the Church of Ephe. fus. Yet 'tis certain that the Church, in these Ages was corrupted, & lost all the beauty
not ges that urch
g of it had in the three first Ages of the Church. h of
Its manners were corrupted , & its worship was marred by the invocation of Saints & the worship of Reliques. What will become of that Persecution of ten days that God predicts to this Church of Smyrna? 'Tis true the Church was persecuted under the Arria
an Emperours ; but it doth not appear very bya. well why this is described by number of ten
The third Epistle is directed to the Church of Pergamus, & according to Forbes this is the Period of the reign of Antichrist. The foregoing Periods were but of two or three hundred years; this must be above a thoufand years. Here is found something that is
pretty like this period. I know where thou Pe dwellest, even where Satan's seat is. To which
may be added that the martyr Antipas spoof
ken of in this Epistle signifies Anti-papa , an the
Enemy opposing the Pope; & that this fig
nifies all those that have opposed the tyranhat ny of Antichrift.
But the rest doth by no means agree to this period. Iknow thy works, & that thou holdest fast my name
8 haft not 1
denied my faith. These praises do by no thy
neans belong to a Church,so corrupt as was Elaf
that of the third Period under the reign of Antichrist. Thon haft them that hold the Doctrine of Balaam who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the Children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto Idols to commit fornication. By this must be meant those evi! Christians that joined in with the Antichristi
to he hele
an Idolatry. Now these people are not well described by thou hast them; for this imports that it was not the body of the Society. And on the contrary, under the Antichristian Em. pire , the greatest part of men did partake of his abominations.
The fourth Epistle is directed to the Church of Tbyatira, to which the H. Spirit gives these great praises I know thy works , & Charity, & service , & Patience; & that thy last works are more than the first. Forbes would have this be that period of the Church in wbich the Church began to reform her self, & in which the good separated from the evil. i. e. the Church from the Albigenses to Luthers time. Now I leave every wise man to judge if a small number of Albigenfes & Waldenses, that separated from the Church of Rome , &that endured so short a time, could deserve from the whole Christian Church, fo generally corrupted, the fairest of all the prailes that the H. Spirit gives to the seven Churches.
Thou suffereft that woman Jezabel that calleth her self a Prophetess, to teach & to seduce my servants to commit fornication. This feo zabel I confess very much resembles the Antichristian Church. But Why should the Ato bigenfes be blamed for suffering the Roman Church ? How could they destroy it, who were so weak ? Did they not cry out upon her as Babylon as much as they were able
Sardis , is the fifth Church to which the H. Spirit writes, & according to 'Forbes 'tis