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the world, that the restraints of religion and civil government, are but an intolerable imposition; endeavouring thereby to undermine the very pillars of civil society.-To this purpose thousands of books were circulated, written by men of the first talents, in a most subtle and artful manner, to unhinge public opinion, and make it run with loose reins through every field of moral science. Their success was astonishing, even to themselves. So corrupted is the present state of the world; so panting the vitiated heart of man for liberty, to follow its depraved inclinations without restraint or remorse; that in France, no less than twenty thousand new proselytes were made in one year. From this we may guess at their progress in other countries, and know the fountain of that insatiable thirst, in our days, for lawless liberty, as the right of man.
Political confusions naturally produce moral corruption. The religious institutions became involved in the fate of the kingdoms and empires, in which they had been established. In France and Germany the Church of God presents little more, than the fragments of a mighty wreck. We may reasonably conclude from this state of the christian world, that peace and happiness cannot be of long duration, where the sunshine of religious hope and comfort has vanished; where truth is controverted with all the charms of wit and elegance; the honour of christianity insulted; and the shadowy path of life made dreary and dismal, by doubt and despair. Its natural course would work the dissolution of all civil society, without a special interference of Providence in behalf of his church. But no, the world was not made to be the prey of infidels; God suffers them to bring judgment on themselves, that they may either turn to their Father, or work their own destruction. Many thousand learned and serious christians this
day read the prophecies, to know the probable future prospects of church and state; and to those a treatise on this subject cannot fail to be welcome.
The study of the prophecies and their accomplishments in the signal events of past ages, is, more or less, the duty of every christian. But it is no less incumbent on us also, attentively to consider those predictions, which may now be in a train of fulfilment; particularly when the signs of the times seem very interesting, and indicative of great peril and temptation. The Word of God is an important treasure indeed. We are not only assured by it in general, that the
grace and faithfulness of the Lord shall never fail ; but we are there also provided with particular instructions, annexed to each prophecy, by which believers may know their duty in every state of trial and discipline to which they may be exposed. In this the provident care and kindness of God, has ever been apparent. The attacks of our enemies are often powerful, concealed, and subtile; and we are in need of superior direction for our defence; here then divine advice straightens our path, and supplies the deficiency.
I. It is therefore incumbent on the people of God, with the faithful Bæreans, to search the Scriptures, that they may know the signs of the times, and observe the particular instructions given them for each period. To this they are animated and directed in those prophetic declarations, as the most wise and certain rule of conduct for their safety and happiness. The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children forever, that we may do them: Deut. xxix. 29. When you see these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption is drawing nigh: Luke xxi. 28.
2. Prophecies reach but to the grave; all their contents only affect and concern the living; they are objects of faith, to excite our attention to Providence, and to the Holy Scriptures. For here we walk by faith, and there by sight. II. Cor. v. 7. As all are more deeply interested, it becomes all seriously to consider, and carefully to compare the
signs of the times, with the prophecies of Christ and his inspired servants. Not only the watchmen on the walls of Zion should feel concerned, to form correct ideas of the prophetic declarations; but all, who may be taken unawares, as a thief in the night. The children of God will always have their share in the sufferings, inflicted on an unbelieving world. They shall be purified and tested; but the wicked shall not understand, and shall fall, by thinking themselves secure and strong, without knowing their weakness and danger. Dan. xii. 10.
III. Our Lord reproved the Jews of his days, for not taking notice of the prophecies then receiving their completion before their eyes. “0) ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but can ye not discerp the signs of the times ?” Matth. xvi. 3. He charges his disciples, John xvi. 14. “These things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.” “For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect." Mark xiii. 22.
IV. The beloved apostles of Christ, believed it a duty incumbent on them, to give solemn warning to the churches of perilous times and great temptation; wherefore they often speak of the latter times. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, “that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.” 1 Tim. iv. 1. and 2 Tim. iii. 1. “This know also, that in the latter days, perilous times shall come.” And 2 Pet. ii. and Jude 17. these apostles speak in the same manner concerning the last times, as being dangerous, and give forewarning of heretical doctrines, which should then be brought in by false prophets. 2 Pet. ii. 1-4. “This is the second epistle I now write to you, that you may be mindful of the words, which were spoken before, by the holy prophets : that there shall come in the last days scoffers, saying, where is the promise of his coming?” And
2 Thess. ii. 5. “Remember ye not, that I told you these things, when I was yet with you.” And St. John says, 1 Epist. ii. 18. “ Ye have heard, that Antichrist shall come," chap. iv. 2. “ Ye have heard, that the spirit of Antichrist shall come.” From these testimonies we may safely conclude, that the apostles gave solemn warning to the Christians of their days generally, of perilous times, both in public discourses and private converse ; exhorting every one, carefully to discern and compare the signs of the times with the prophecies, and to observe their duty. Though we ought always, to consider it our first obligation, to seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness-to be reconciled through the blood of the everlasting covenant; yet, if the apostles believed it necessary for the Christians of their days, to consider this word of prophecy, how much more will it be our duty, who live in those very times in the last and most perilous part, of which they have spoken.
V. Of all the books of the New Testament, the Revelation is alone expressly prophetic, and prefaced with this animating admonition : “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things, which are written therein; for the time is at hand.” Repeatedly we are called upon throughout this whole prophecy; "he that hath an ear, let him hear-Jet him, that readeth understand-blessed is he, that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book--seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” . Here then it is made our solemn duty and interest, to attend to the words of the prophecy, and their accomplishment in the signs of the times, more particularly to the Revelation.
The Revelation of St. John has in all ages of the Christian æra, been the wonder and mystery of the world. Its language and style, constructed on the symbolic principles of the ancient hieroglyphics, replete with sublime and figurative terms, will always fill the mind with amazement. The deep interest of all in these predictions, concerning the
prosperous and calamitous events of the church, and of those kingdoms and empires connected with her, attracts the attention of the thoughtful in an imperious manner to the sense, which these lofty images are intended to convey. Great minds are naturally inclined to inquire into objects of importance, however intricate or profound they may be; and here they were presented with a world of matter, which will employ all their powers in its investigation.
This subject however, has always proved to be an arduous undertaking. It is certainly of all scriptural prophecies the most intricate, and the most difficult to explain. We have many works extant, in every language of christen dom, on this important revelation of Jesus Christ to his church. And though I feel a sincere respect for the learned labours of those profound scholars, both professional divines and laymen; yet I humbly conceive, only a few of those authors, have written from an entire conviction of the truth and certainty of their own explanations, and to the satisfaction of judicious readers. It was not for want of abilities, natural or acquired, that those great and good men remained in the morning dawn of light. The signs of the times had not yet appeared, which have since thrown more light on some of the principal prophecies, by which others of inferior magnitude are regulated, as to the time and manner of their completion.
The Lord has caused a cloud of obscurity to rest on this book, in order to hide his eternal counsels from the scrutinous eye of vain curiosity. Its profound contents are surely a river of living water, flowing from the throne of God; where a lamb may drink and be satisfied, and where the stature of an elephant would be insufficient to pass over. As all souls are his, Ezek. xviii. 4. He has also in this memorial of his love provided nourishment, comfort and advice for all; whatever their different states and ages in grace may require. 1:John ii. 12-13. The Epistles to the seven churches in Asia minor, are easy to be understood, and