« PreviousContinue »
in a great degree, that their vain thoughts no longer lodge within them; that they are taken up in the contemplation of new, sublime, and divine subjects; that they are contented with their condition; thankful for their mercies, humble for their sins; patient under their sufferings; delighted with the service of God, and strengthened for the performance of it; pleased with the company
of God's people; forgiving towards enemies; and benevolent towards all: benefited by the exercises of prayer, and of praise; willing to live all the days of their appointed time until their change come, and possessed of no distressing apprehension about the hour of dissolution, firmly believing, that when absent from the body, they shall be present with the Lord, and disposed to say in the triumphant language of the apostle, He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also, freely give us all things?
Should this be called rant, and rhapsody, or by any other name expressive of contempt, I have no doubt that it falls as much short of what will be realized at a future day, and indeed of what has been already realized, in ten thousand instances, as what the queen of Sheba heard about Solomon in her own country, fell short of what she saw and heard when she visited him in his kingdom. Testimony however various, and powerful, has but little weight with him, who has not the witness in himself, when the subject of religion is concerned.
The fifth and last thing in this passage requiring our attention is thus expressed, And then shall the end come. If there is a propriety however in the interpretation which has now been put upon this passage, and the end here spoken of is the end of the world, some important things will take place after the time when the gospel shall be preached in all the world, before the end shall actually come.
The expectation has been generally entertained, not only by divines, but also by the church of God, that there would be a period in time which it would be proper to call the Millenium, or the thousand years, by way of distinction, and this expectation is founded on scripture testimony. Take the following passage from the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, And I saw an angel come down from heav
en, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon that old serpent, which is the devil, and satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit; and shut him
up; and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be fulfilled. This is figurative language, but does it not obviously mean, as is expressed in another part of the same book, that the kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, that the nations of the earth shall, for a thousand years, cease to be disturbed by that enemy who is the present god of this world; and that sin shall receive during this period, an effectual check?
When such a state of things shall be brought about, the pursuits and practices of mankind will be very different from what they have ever generally been. St. James has inquired, Whence come wars and fightings? Come they not hence, even of your lusts, which war in your members! If ever these lusts shall be subdued by the grace of God, then wars and fightings will come to an end, as a natural and necessary consequence. Those who conclude, that this world will always be a world of warfare, because it always has been since sin was introduced, draw their conclusions from wrong premises; for if they traced the evil to the cause, they would see, that if the cause should be done away, the evil would be done away with it. Is any prophecy delivered in plainer and more intelligible language than the following? And he shall judge among many nations; and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Let those who would be wise above what is written, and who maintain that wars are as necessary as winds, and as much to be expected as volcanoes, and earthquakes, remember, that he who is wiser than they, and who has declared the end from the beginning, has spoken differently upon the subject.
In addition to the great blessing of peace among the nations, to be enjoyed at the period which we are contemplating, we are informed that the work of mankind will be
righteousness, and, that what is of the greatest importance will be the object of their attention and pursuit. A quotation from Zachariah will be sufficient for this particular. In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness unto the Lord; and the pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the altar. It was observed, that this happy condition of things is to continue a thousand years. Something very different may then be expected to take place. We have made one quotation from the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, and now we add another. And when the thousand years are expired, satan shall be loosed out of his prison; And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. Gog and Magog are described by Ezekiel, as enemies who are to make an attack upon the land of Israel in the latter days; and Gog and Magog, mentioned by St. John, who are to appear at a still later period, may be the same nations combined with other enemies, or only such enemies as will resemble them in character. It may be thought strange that such a time of wickedness should succeed such a time of holiness; but we are to remember that as holiness belongs not to our nature, but is produced by the operation of the Spirit upon the hearts of individuals, so the most wicked generation may be born of the most holy parents. This is clearly possible, and God may suffer it to be so, to answer the wise and important purposes of his government. It appears that this is the last effort which satan will make, and that it is immediately to precede the resurrection of the dead, and the final conflagration.
Of these events the Bible gives us descriptions most sublime and awful. St. Paul says to the Thessalonians in the fourth chapter of his first epistle, For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. David says, in the fiftieth psalm; Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. St. John says, in the twentieth chapter of his
revelation, And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it; from whose face the earth and the heavens fled away, and there was found no place for them. St. Peter says, in the third chapter of his second epistle, But the day of the Lord will come, as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise; and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. These
passages speak for themselves. No comment upon them is necessary; and vain would be any attempt to add any thing to the solemnity which they contain.
I have now gone through with the several parts of my subject. You may think I have chosen a passage not the best adapted to the occasion. Most of those passages which immediately respect fasting, I have considered in former years, and if I would avoid the beaten path, I must take a new guide. We may make such an improvement of the subject as will make it appear suitable.
Have we not reason to keep a day of fasting when we consider, that this gospel of the kingdom, which has been so long in the world, has not even to the present time, which is the nineteenth century of the christian era, been preached except to a small portion of the world? Where there is no vision the people perish. What vast multitudes then must have perished, who might have been saved by the gospel! Satan has been suffered to establish his strong holds, and to remain the undisturbed monarch of his own dark and dismal kingdom, carrying on that work which is the only one congenial with his nature, the work of destruction. Are we not called upon to fast from the consideration, that in these last days, when the angel is almost ready to lift up his hand to heaven and swear, that time shall be no longer, there is so little of a disposition among those who have all their lives been possessed of this gospel, to send it to those who never saw it, and who must be miserable without it! Nothing but selfishness, or sin, which is the same thing, can account for this strange indifference to an affair of so much importance. Want of means cannot be pleaded as an excuse, nor can the want of success which has attended the endeavors already made to bring the ignorant to the knowledge of God. A light tax on the luxuries and superfluities of life, if it should become universal, would raise a pile high as the top of Atlas, and if the labors of the husbandman meet with any encouragement, surely the labors of the missionary are, at least, equal. The savages of our wilderness were certainly among the most unpromising objects for compassion to go to work upon, but among no class of people perhaps, has the work performed been better received.
Have we not reason to fast, when we reflect how poor an improvement is made of this gospel by those who have it, and who never saw the day when they were not in the possession of it?
The Sabbath comes one day in seven, and yet what multitudes who might be in the house of God, choose rather to be in their own houses, or in their fields, or on the road, performing journeys of pleasure, or of business. This they think they have a right to do, and give no reason for it, though it is in direct defiance of God's own positive, and solemn injunctions. What multitudes assemble in the places where public worship is performed, having no motive but to transact some secular concern, or to see or be seen,or to contrive or talk of some frivolous amusements.
How small is the proportion, in every place, of those who make a public profession of religion! In a population of twelve hundred, if the church consists of tro hundred, it is thought to be a large church, and yet it contains only one sixth of the whole number. Five sixths therefore, to say the least, give this negative manifestation, that they have not embraced the gospel.
When we look into the church too, we are presented with a melancholy sight, for as in the days of the apostles when Christ was upon earth, there was one traitor in the number of twelve, we have reason to fear, that the proportion is far greater in ordinary times, and as things commonly are. What do ye more than others, is a close question to profes
If members of the church are not chargeable with falsehood, with fraud, with profanity, with intemperance, or other scandalous vices, their manner of life may be so irreligious that this passage of scripture may be very applicable to their case. Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that