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THE CHARACTER AND HISTORY OF TRUE CHRISTIANS DURING THE GENERAL APOSTACY. LECTURE XIII.

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THE CHARACTER AND HISTORY OF TRUE CHRISTIANS DURING THE GENERAL APOSTACY. LECTURE XIII.

James Dodson

REV. xiv. 1—l3 .... And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’ s name written in their foreheads, &c. &c.

JOHN the apostle, like the son of Zacharias, of the same name, points out to those who look for him, the Saviour which is Christ the Lord. “Behold,” said the Baptist, at the bank of Jordan, “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world!” “And I looked,” said the son of Zebedee, during the great apostacy from Christianity, which affected all the nations, “and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion.”

Employing the language of these two great and distinguished ministers of the church, we now address you, unto whom the Saviour is precious; we direct your eyes to the same personage, still occupying the same place, still retaining the same character, and still dispensing pardon and felicity.

Lo, brethren, standing before you, God-man, your friend and your brother, as the Head of his own church. He is more than any human philanthropist. “This is no vain theorist, coldly speculating upon imaginary schemes of improvement, bewildering his disciples with the peradventures of doubtful disputation, or indolently suggesting impracticable plans of reform.” He whom we preach is alive to your wants and your woes; he is ever awake and in action, doing good and diffusing happiness.

Along with him is a sealed company of men, devoted to his cause, animated by his Spirit, called, and chosen, and faithful. The angels of the upper sanctuary, minister to them in obedience to his command; and their own messengers, by his appointment, preach the everlasting gospel, and proclaim in their hearing the downfall of their foes.

The plan which I purpose to pursue in this Lecture is, To settle the chronology of the chapter—Give the history of its contents—and make application.

1. Ascertain the time to which the prophecy of the fourteenth chapter has reference.

This chapter describes the EIGHTH VISION of John the Divine, and is evidently intended to relieve Christian anxiety, excited by the alarming representation of the SEVENTH VISION, recorded in the preceding chapter. There, we had a development of the antichristian system, as it respects the two great and distinct kinds of human society, civil and ecclesiastic, within the bounds of the Latin world. We have seen our fellow-men, degraded throughout the different nations, by the united powers of the first and the second beast, into a state of slavish subjection to tyranny and superstition: and so made to suffer for the crime of bearing the mark of the beast, and of his name; a crime in which the people must share with their superiors, both despotic princes and corrupted priests; inasmuch as they have the power at will to remedy the evil. Had not the people consented to give their power to the kings of the earth, the kings could not have with one mind given their power unto the beast.

Here, we have an account of true Christians who disapproved of the prevailing policy, and who, although unknown to one another on earth, and without any concert or plan of co-operation, are united by their living Redeemer, into one holy assembly, interesting to behold. From the nature of the contrast of the sealed servants of God in this chapter, with the marked slaves of the beast in the preceding, we are led to conclude that the two visions have respect to the same space of time.

This idea has occurred to every judicious expositor of the Revelation; and has induced almost all Commentators to apply this chapter to events which come to pass during some part of the period of the beast’s reign. We apply the predictions so as to run parallel with the history of the apostacy, during the whole remarkable period of the 1260 years. The text itself furnishes the means of ascertaining its chronology, and justifies our application of it to the time specified.

The harvest and the vintage with which the xivth chapter closes, obviously describe the concluding judgments of heaven upon the antichristian foe. Gathering in the corn, and making the wine, is the end of the husbandman’s labours; and so the harvest and the vintage conclude the season under consideration, whether it be a time of wrath or of mercy. In this connexion, these symbols must be understood as indicating the wrath of God, denounced by the several angels upon the symbolical Babylon; and they must of course be explained of the concluding judgments, at the close of the period already pointed out—the time of the end.

The commencement of the vision cannot be dated at any time subsequent to the rise of the man of sin: for it expressly refers to an event which took place after the revolution in the Roman empire, from Paganism to the profession of Christianity. The company of 144,000, who stand with the Lamb on mount Sion, having their Father’s name written in their foreheads, were thus marked out after the sixth seal, and before the opening of the seventh, that is, some time between the accession of Constantine to, the throne of Rome, and the reign of the Great Theodosius. In the seventh chapter of the Revelation, we have a description of the sealing of 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, and these constitute the body of pious men who are introduced to view in the first verse of the fourteenth chapter.

The idea of sealing the servants of God is taken from Ezek. ix. 4. Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. The operation of marking the saints was as necessary in the 4th century, as it was in the age of Ezekiel. “The number of immoral and unworthy Christians began so to increase, that the examples of real piety and virtue became extremely rare.

“When the terrors of persecution were totally dispelled; when the church, secured from the efforts of its enemies, enjoyed the sweets of prosperity and peace; when the most of the bishops exhibited to their flock the contagious examples of arrogance, luxury, effeminacy, animosity, and strife, with other vices too numerous to mention, then it was no wonder that the church was contaminated with shoals of profligate Christians, and that the virtuous few were in a manner oppressed and overwhelmed with the superior numbers of the wicked and licentious.”[1]

The 144,000 which were sealed in this age of corruption, are introduced at the beginning of the xivth chapter, and hence we infer, that the prophecy ought to be applied to the early, as well as to the more recent, ages of the antichristian apostacy.

Presented in vision as they are, for the purpose of assuring us that the church shall not be destroyed; and that in the most dissolute age there shall be saints, it was necessary that this hope should be cherished from the very origin of the prevailing evil. Therefore, do we conclude, that this chapter gives us the history of the saints, from the beginning to the end of the 1260 years.

II. The contents of the fourteenth chapter.

The general division of this chapter is into three parts, each of which admits of subdivision. We are furnished with a description of true Christians—with a history of the principal revivals among them—and with an account of the total overthrow of their enemies.

We shall direct your attention to each of these in the order in which they occur.

Description of the saints during the apostacy.

Verse 1—5. And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunder; and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

The mountain Sion is the true Christian church. A mountain, in the symbolical style, is the seat of power, either civil or religious, good or bad. Babylon, though situated low on the banks of the river, is called the destroying mountain; and the triumphs of Christianity over all the nations, is denoted by the phrase the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established over the tops of the mountains. On a mountain stood the temple of the Lord, and therefore does it denote his place of residence among his people. In Sion is his seat. This expression denotes the dignity, the beauty, and the stability of Christianity. Ye are come unto mount Zion.

There stands the Lamb. Messiah appears to his church as the victim for our sins: for we desire to know nothing but Christ crucified He is a priest upon his throne. He that liveth and was dead, stands at the head of his saints; and protects them from the wild beast having the horns of a lamb and the voice of a dragon.

And with him, in both a spiritual union and a happy fellowship, are 144,000 Israelites without guile. This expression denotes all his saints during the apostacy. His open witnesses are few; but these are comparatively numerous. Scattered over the nations and among the several churches, however great their imperfection, they are all upon the foundation, and stand in Sion along with their Redeemer. They are thus preserved from the temptations and the power of the dragon.

The celestial song, in which their voices are united, is peculiar to themselves. Its notes are listened to attentively by the enraptured prophet. Amidst the intervals of the roaring of the beasts of prey, he hears the music of the harp. Deep, solemn, and awful, its sound, like that of the rapid torrents of the hills or loud peals of distant thunder, bursts upon our ears. This new song of redeemed men is sung with transports of joy before the throne of Jehovah, and in the presence of the ministers and elders of the church,—the four beasts, and the elders.[2]

No man could learn that song, but the ransomed of the Lord. The melody of the heart is peculiar to the saints. They alone have a new heart and a right spirit. With their joy a stranger doth not intermeddle.

These are the members of the invisible church, united as one company to the Redeemer; although not all united in any one visible communion. They are found in the several churches—in all the twelve tribes of Israel; and yet are only a part of these several churches.

There is no visible ecclesiastical body, without false professors; and pious men may be found in very corrupt communities. This results from the nature of human association. It is the part of a few only, of those who are connected with any extensive society, either civil or religious, to comprehend the schemes and the principles of its leading members. The multitude are incapable of sifting the motives of the managers, or of calculating the consequences of their proceedings. Wise and virtuous men find it often impossible to make many, who co-operate with them, understand the whole of their views, or of the means which they see cause to employ: and it would, in several important concerns, be imprudent to disclose to the public all they know; because such development might effectually prevent the accomplishment of their benevolent designs.

The ambitious, the mercenary, and the deceitful, take advantage of the state of human society, and succeed in imposing upon the pious, the peaceable, and the unsuspecting part of the community, while they give an entirely wrong direction to the general movements of the collective body.

Thus, there may be a majority of virtuous members in a rapidly declining church; and these are not usually awakened, either to suspicion or to action, until the evil is beyond the reach of remedy. It remains for the saints, in a church reduced to such a state as this, only to bear with patience the affliction for which they mourn, or by a powerful effort to tear asunder the innumerable and the strong ligaments by which they are bound, even to corrupt establishments. Such an experiment is always painful, and often dangerous. These considerations, coming in aid of the natural indolence of man, prevent a frequent recurrence to it, except in those instances, in which strong passions are excited by some other cause; and the schisms produced under the influence of violent passions, do more injury than honour to the Christian religion. Amidst the various contentions and divisions which have from age to age agitated and distracted the church, passion has had more to do than principle, pride has been more exercised than conscience, and prejudice has been consulted more than argument. Rarely, indeed, do men break off from their ecclesiastical connexions, from correct principles, and with a view to act as faithful witnesses for God. The few cases of this description which occur, make little noise in the world: and by far the greater part of the pious people are scattered here and there among the churches of the nations. “They are not confined to one place, or to one party; they are not visible as a society distinct from nominal Christians.”[3] These comparatively hidden, but genuine disciples, are in number to the open and bold witnesses against the corruptions of the man of sin, as the 144,000 to two, or as the 7000 Israelites who did not bow the knee to Baal, to the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

There are, however, certain traits of character, peculiar to all pious men; and to these, as pointed out in this text, I solicit your attention. In giving the evidences of a state of grace, we have great need of discrimination. Success in such an undertaking does not depend upon the multiplicity of tests applied to the conscience, so much as upon the precision of our exhibitions. One unequivocal sign is sufficient to settle the question; because where there is one saving grace, there is the spiritual life which shall in due time grow up into perfection. As one unpardoned sin condemns for ever, let the character be otherwise what it may, so one gracious exercise is certain evidence of the new-birth, that unequivocal gift of Christ our Redeemer and Saviour. The Son of God neither condemns nor justifies by halves. Let the advocates of an atonement which does not expiate, or of an expiation which does not redeem, or of a redemption which does not save the soul, amuse themselves in tearing asunder the seamless robe of the mediatory righteousness; the scriptures still teach, that he who spared not his own Son, hut delivered him up to the death for us all, will with him also freely give us all things.

Those which were redeemed from the earth, redeemed from among men,[4] according to this text, have the following

Four characteristics of true godliness.

1. Union by FAITH to the Redeemer, together with a profession of allegiance to the Lord. The 144,000 are “with the Lamb on mount Sion, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.” They are in the church; they bear the mark of their God, as his peculiar property, and they avow their obedience to him. Their highest privilege, and their distinguishing blessing, is to be with him as their living Head, who, as the Lamb without spot, made atonement for them. Faith forms this union with the Saviour. Two distinct intelligent beings cannot unite without a mutual giving and receiving of the one to the other. The Son of God is given that we may receive him. Faith “receives and rests upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.” It appropriates the Saviour to the person, and for the salvation of the convinced sinner.[5]

Faith is the FIRST of the Christian GRACES. A NOVICE may err in arrangement; but Christian experience gives to faith the first place. We live by faith, we walk by faith. He that believeth not is condemned.

2. Purity in doctrine and worship. “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.”

Idolatry, will-worship, and superstition, have always been represented as spiritual adultery. The eye was made for the light: and he is blind who cannot see the sun. Truth is spiritual light, and the sanctified intellect will receive the truth. To open the eyes of the understanding, to turn them from darkness to light, is the work of God’s Spirit. And we cannot conceive of miracles of grace being wrought by a holy God, for the purpose of making men heretics. If the gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. God converts men by the gospel. Those who love himself, will love also his holy word. Although the creed of their churches should be imperfect or erroneous; although their ministers should be disposed to conceal or misrepresent the truth, all the saints are taught of God, and are in heart attached to his doctrine and his worship. Soul-satisfaction in the promises and precepts of the Saviour, and a chaste affection for all his ordinances, are essential to the virgin daughter of Zion. “They called the church a virgin,” says Hegisippus, “when it was not corrupted by vain doctrines.” It is impossible that a renewed man under the direction of God’s Spirit, should not take delight in the doctrines of his precious word, whensoever they are understood.

3. Suffering for Christ’s sake. “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” They take up their cross, and follow him.

Suffering is the most difficult part of evangelical obedience; but the grace necessary for it is provided for all the saints. To you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake. His own sufferings were the most trying part of his humiliation; and he set us the example of enduring reproach, loss of worldly interest, toil, and death, for the gospel.

In vain they think themselves converted, who dream of joy, and relate their superficial and delusory experience; but would not suffer inconvenience for the cause of true religion. Not so those who took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they had in heaven a more enduring substance. He who will save his life shall lose it ; and he who loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

4. Uprightness. “And in their mouth was found no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God.” Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile. Speaking without deceit, the saints had rather be charged with an honest and frank imprudence, if men choose to call it so, than with intrigue and deceitful management. Act as he will, and talk as he will about religion; let him relate his sorrows, and describe his ecstacies; let him descant upon his benevolence, and set forth the beauty of virtue with affected fervour, and with factitious eloquence; still the deceitful man cannot be a Christian, or admitted among them who are the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb.

These characteristics are not matters of doubtful disputation. They are plain, and easily applied to the heart. They are furnished by the vision of John, and happy are they to whom they are applicable. The pious people, throughout the several parts of the Christian world, and in the different branches of the Christian church, will recognize in reading this part of the sacred volume, their own character described in it to their comfort; and again, they join in the song of the ransomed, and are transported with the unutterable delights of the heavenly harmony.

We proceed to

The history of the revivals of religion.

The phrase, revival of religion, by its recent application among the churches, especially in America, has been diverted from its proper use. It is now generally employed to denote the anxieties of the ungodly to escape condemnation, and the excitement which accompanies the first stages of conversion. Yea, provided the human passions are any way aroused about religious things, however great the ignorance, the heresy, the confusion, and the fanaticism, which accompany and characterize the commotion, it is styled a revival of religion, both by designing and undiscerning professors. Such is the proneness of deluded men to parade and clamour, and so great the prejudice against the light and the order of true religion, that the most intelligent, humble, self-denied, and indefatigable Christians, are in danger, even in this age of peculiar claims to liberality, to have their own piety called in question, if they should lisp a doubt, or wait for evidence, respecting the character of such revivals. Nay, should hundreds of hopeful converts be added to the church without noise or tumult, it may pass unnoticed. Extravagance seems to be essential to a modern revival.

You, brethren, I trust, have not so learned Christ. In faithfulness to the testimonies of your God, you will run the risk: you will try the spirits: And then, if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ, or, lo, he is there; believe him not; for false Christs, and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.[6]

The term REVIVAL, is, however, scriptural; and it is dear to the saints. The very abuse of it, by which men have so often succeeded in deceiving the unwary, and in recommending erroneous doctrines, giving out that they are blessed of God for the conversion of sinners, is itself evidence of its importance. It is our duty to redeem it to its proper use.

To revive, is “to bring again to life, or recall from a state of languor.” It always implies, that its subject had life or vigour formerly; and that such life or vigour is again communicated, or excited into action. It never denotes the first communication of the vital principle.[7] A religious revival is either personal or social. When personal, it denotes the removal of temptations and suppression of innate corruption, together with the restoration of the soul to the path of righteousness, of pleasantness, and of peace: but it never denotes regeneration, conversion, or the first convictions of sinners.[8] When social, appertaining to a particular congregation, or to an ecclesiastical community, a revival of religion does not exclude the idea of additional converts, because the increase of the church is matter of joy to the whole body; but the true idea of a revival of religion in a church, is the restoration of christian community to a state of activity, of order,[9] of spiritual joy,[10] growth,[11] and fruitfulness, in the knowledge and service of our God.

Indolence, disorder, negligence, immorality, or superstition, indicate a declining state of religion in the church: but the means of revival, are an able faithful ministry, the powerful preaching of the whole counsel of God, and the spirit of prayer descending upon the saints who belong to its fellowship.

Three epochs, distinguished for a revival of the work of God after the great apostacy, have been predicted in this chapter: and to each of these I request your attention. They are ushered into our notice, under the symbol of so many angels.

The first angel of general revival.

Verses 6, 7. And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earthy and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice. Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

Angel is a term of office, and represents the collective body of messengers from God to his people—pious ministers. Flying is the symbol of speed. Heaven is the church. The everlasting gospel is the message which the angel bears; and the epithet everlasting not only denotes its origin in the eternal covenant, but also its perpetuity in the church in despite of the antichristian apostacy. To them that dwell on the earth, the population of the Latin empire of every description, this message is delivered. And the loud voice of the preacher, is the natural expression of his earnestness and authority. The peculiar character of the ministry of this first revival, is to direct men to the true object of worship, in opposition to the multiplied idolatries of the Roman superstition—Fear God, worship him that made heaven and earth; and to conclude our exposition of these words, the time in which this dispensation is made to the church, is denoted by the phrase, the hour of his judgment is come. This evidently cannot apply to the last judgment; for other events of a penal character are pointed out by the succeeding angels.

Let us endeavour to ascertain the period of this prophecy.

It has been applied to the age of Charlemagne by bishop Newton: but that excellent Commentator forgot, when he gave this interpretation, the nature of the everlasting gospel. Indeed, it is upon this quarter the bishop is most apt to err. He was better acquainted with almost every other scriptural subject than with the principles of the gospel. It is preposterous to make the head of the beast identify with the flying angel.

Mr. Faber applies this prediction to the time of Luther; but his error consists in throwing together into one great event all the three distinct predictions before us, by referring them all to the reformation of the sixteenth century. Whatever diversity of opinion may have been then indulged, and whatever time may have elapsed after the commencement of the work of reform in one country before it extended to another, still the reformation ought to be viewed as one great epoch in the history of true religion.

It is in fact the work assigned to the second angel of religious revival. Mr. Faber, however, interprets the first angel, of Luther and the Lutheran churches; the second of Calvin and the churches called reformed; the third, of the insular church of England.[12]

Dr. Scott in his Commentary appears to me to have approached nearer to the true interpretation of the three angels than any of his predecessors; and to have exactly pointed out the period of history predicted in the prophecy respecting the first. “The three angels,” he remarks, “were emblematical heralds of the progressive reformation from popery.—We may therefore, I apprehend, interpret this first angel, or herald, of those who first publicly erected the standard of reformation, and who contended for the everlasting gospel of Christ, in opposition to all the innovations and usurpations of the beast, his image, and the false prophet. This honour seems to belong to the Waldenses and Albigenses, who had the true gospel among them; avowed its everlasting obligation and excellency; opposed it to the authority of popes, councils, and persecuting princes: declared the pope to be antichrist; propagated their doctrines with zeal and success, and multiplied into a vast number of churches. And after immense slaughter had been made of them by persecutions and bloody wars, they still retained their tenets; and being dispersed into other countries, they rapidly carried the everlasting gospel with them; so that the Lollards in England, and the Bohemians, and many others in different places, seem to have principally learned the gospel from them; and the reformation itself appears to have sprung from the seed which they sowed, and watered with rivers of their blood.”

The application of this text to modern missions is every way out of place. Missions to the heathen have existed in every age; but they are not at all opposed to the beast in the sense of this chapter. The work of all the angels lies in Christendom.

The first angel is the herald of that astonishing revival which history describes as effected by the restorers of sound doctrine, and primitive order in the western empire, the Waldenses and their coadjutors among the nations, down to the time of John Huss and the famous Jerome.

It was in the year 1180 that this revival commenced among those who for upwards of 500 years, had been distinguished by their DISSENT from the established religion of the Latin empire. Hitherto the VAUDOIS, as they were called, from their place of residence in the valleys, were comparatively unnoticed; but now their leaven of sound doctrine began to pervade the surrounding churches. The wealth and the talents of Peter of Lyons, formerly an opulent merchant, and afterwards an eminently successful instrument of good to Zion, by the blessing of God, gave a new spring to their exertions. He was called Waldus, or Valdo, on account of his espousing the cause of that obscure people. Several historians, and among others. Dr. Mosheim, have mistaken him for the founder of the system which he was the happy means of reviving. Dr. Maclaine, from the best authorities, corrects this error: And all acknowledge, “that the purity and simplicity of that religion which these good men taught, the spotless innocence which shone forth in their lives and actions, and the noble contempt of riches and honours, which was conspicuous in the whole of their conduct and conversation, appeared so engaging to all such as had any sense of true piety, that the number of their disciples and followers increased from day to day. They accordingly formed religious assemblies, first in France, and afterwards in Lombardy, from whence they propagated their cause throughout the other provinces of Europe with incredible rapidity. The sincere piety and exemplary conduct of the Waldenses, show plainly enough that their intention was to REVIVE the piety and manners of the primitive times, and to combat the vices of the clergy, and the abuses that had been introduced into the worship and discipline of the church.”[13]

The second general revival.

Verse 8. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

As the angel of the preceding paragraph, although the first of the three introduced in this connexion, was called another, to distinguish him from the angel of the covenant, the Lamb at the head of the 144,000, so is this second angel termed another, to distinguish him from the first. I have elsewhere[14] shown, that the term angel very aptly symbolizes a community employed in its united character, for some special service under the providence of God. The principal object of that religious excitement which was given to Christendom by the ministry of the Waldenses, and which is pointed out in the preceding verses, was simply the restoration of purity in doctrine and worship, and of piety in the room of lifeless forms and unmeaning ceremonies. The work of this second angel is an additional revival, and, including all the previous attainments, aims at the actual overthrow of the church of Rome. The former, predicted judgments; this, predicts the degradation of the haughty foe—Babylon is fallen, is fallen.

The ancient capital of Chaldea, the literal Babylon, had long since been laid in ruins. The symbolical Babylon, called the great city, is the Roman Catholic church, the MOTHER OF HARLOTS, of the seventeenth chapter. This great adulteress, instead of dispensing to men the cup of salvation, by an exhibition of the gospel, held out the cup of intoxication, as an excitement to the baser passions. It is full of the wine of wrath. She seduced the nations to apostacy, and the prostitution of the Christian religion became general over Europe.

The protestant reformation, as one great event, is thus characterized. It is the second general revival of true religion. It effectually degraded the Roman superstition; and it gave an excitement to talents and to piety which was felt throughout the world. The work commenced under the ministry of Zuinglius, in Zurich, Switzerland, in the year 1516. This illustrious reformer, whose name seems to have been too generally forgotten, had very noble and extensive ideas of a general reformation, and communicated them to his people at the very time that Luther retained almost the whole system of popery, indulgences excepted. His extensive learning, and uncommon sagacity, accompanied with the most heroic intrepidity, tempered by the greatest moderation, rendered him perhaps beyond comparison the brightest ornament of the protestant cause.[15] The names of Luther and Calvin are sufficiently celebrated in history; and the magnitude of the work which they, their coadjutors, and successors, accomplished, is universally acknowledged.

These eminent heralds of the cross, proclaimed the fall of the mystical Babylon with the same certainty as the prophet Isaiah predicted that of the ancient city of the same name, and almost in the same words. Isa. xxi. 9. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.

The churches of the reformation have since their establishment, however, undergone a great change for the worse. Religion languishes. Corruption abounds. There is need of a subsequent revival. A third great event is predicted, which we consider as yet to come. Let us turn, my brethren, your attention to it, in hope that it is not very remote from the time in which we live.

The third general revival.

Verses 9—13. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, if any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, &c. &c.

There is a peculiar emphasis upon verse 13th. All who die in the Lord at all times are blessed; and their work and labour of love shall not be forgotten: but those who die after the work of the third herald of general reformation shall have commenced, not only enter into rest themselves, but the holy work of restoring religion shall immediately succeed, and be established in rest for ever —ακολουθει μετ’ αυτωνShall follow with them.

This is, in fact, that great reform, which will usher in the millennium. Here then shall the patience of the saints terminate. Their sufferings speedily end; and they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, shall at the removing of those things that are shaken, receive a kingdom which cannot be moved.

It is the peculiar character of the ministry of the church of God, during this great work, to pronounce the judgments of heaven upon the whole system of Latin superstition. They attack the evil at its root. They are sensible by long and painful experience that while the civil power is permitted to prostitute religion, religion must be corrupt. They take the secular beast himself by the horns, and they expose to the population of the empire the crime and the danger of supporting him.

The time to temporize is past. United by one spirit, the Christians of the old Latin world are about to feel their power, to act in concert, and become terrible to their enemies as an army with banners.

The kings of the nations will have previously weakened themselves by their contentions and their wars. The people will burst from their chains, and dissolve the bonds by which they have been bound; but war alone can produce no advantage. There may be battles, and victories, and revolutions, and deeds of patriotism, and heroism, and glory, and yet the people still are oppressed: they remain ignorant; the conqueror and the conquered are alike immoral and impious. Now, however, knowledge is progressive. Restrictions upon the industry, the persons, and the enterprize of men, must have an end. The civilized world has received an excitement terrible, in its ultimate effects, to all tyrannical power. Cotemporaneously with the judgments which fall upon the empire of the man of sin for its final ruin, the Lord God will pour out his Spirit upon his saints. The day of revival is about to come. Religion alone can subdue the human passions, and prepare the reign of peace. Its ministers will raise a voice which shall shake thrones of iniquity that have no fellowship with God, and constrain the kings of the earth to bow before Immanuel. All corrupt establishments shall fall, never to rise; and instead of a state priesthood inculcating obedience to the beast, the dragon, and his horns, the messengers of the gospel shall effectually withdraw, from the powers that oppose religion, the allegiance of their former subjects. Instead of thundering from the pulpit anathemas against those who oppose lawless power, the third angel cries out. If any man worship the beast, and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation.

All who continue to have the mark of the beast, shall drink of the imbittered powerful wine, κεκαρεσμενου ακρατου. This wine of wrath, is ακρατον, having no diluting liquor added to it, to reduce its strength. It is κεκαρεσμενον rendered stronger by the mixture of intoxicating ingredients.[16] Thus shall the WICKED ONE, 2 Thess. ii. 8. come to his end—Whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

The prophecy completes the history of true Christians, in the preceding passages, and now turns to the history of the judgments which put an end to the Latin empire—It is the third wo.[17]

The judgment of the harvest.

Verses 14—16. And I looked, and, behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle, &c. &c.

The EARTH, verses 15, 16. is the Latin empire. The HARVEST of this earth is said to be ripe, when the system is fit for judgment. And this of course is the time to reap. When the cup of their iniquity is full, then is the time of punishment. The harvest, in prophetic style, is the symbol of destroying judgments. It signifies indeed in some cases, the final separation of the tares from the wheat, and gathering the saints home like a shock of corn ripe in its season. But as the vintage in this chapter is expressly said, verse 19, to refer to the wrath of God, and is a continuation of the season of harvest, the harvest itself must be explained also of wrath. The words of the prediction too, convey the idea of judgments. They are borrowed from Joel iii. 13. I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.

He who executes this judgment, is Messiah. The Father judgeth no man; but hath committed all judgment unto the Son. Behold, he sitteth upon a cloud as King of kings, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand the instruments of vengeance, a sharp sickle. The cloud which he makes his throne, is white, to denote the purity of his dispensations. Messiah is holy in punishing the nations; and although the harvest is a day of distress to the wicked, it is a bright cloud to the church. It is desirable on account of its happy consequences. The angel from the temple, the ministry of the true church, prays earnestly for the exhibitions of this destroying judgment. This prayer is addressed to Messiah, and indicates the anxiety, which faithful ministers feel, for the overthrow of antichristian power. They also observe the signs of the times, and declare, the time is come for thee to reap: for the harvest of the earth is ripe.

This, brethren, is the time of the harvest. We have represented the revival of the third angel as still to come, although appearances indicate that it is near at hand. The prophecy of the harvest succeeds in the order of arrangement, that which respects the third reformation, because the proper history of true Christians ought not to be unnecessarily interrupted: but inasmuch, as that very history declared the ruin of the foe, the event described in the following verses, may not only be considered cotemporaneous with the reformation itself; but may in its origin, somewhat precede the work to which it is subservient. The accomplishment of the prediction will be found in the events which grow out of the French Revolution. Very few of these events are as yet fully disclosed. Battles, and blood, and ruin, and death, have undoubtedly been already abundant; but even in these respects, we have seen no more than the beginning of sorrows. The work is not at an end, though Germany should be reconquered; though Holland, and Switzerland, and Portugal, and Spain, be restored to rank among the nations; and though France itself should be partitioned among the victorious allies. No: the work of overturning is only in its commencement. The KING OF KINGS has in his hand a sharp sickle. The kings of the nations shall be cut down. The whole symbolical earth must be effectually reaped.

The fate of battles, the boundaries of empire, the struggles of crowned heads, the vicissitudes of victory, are, apart from the great principles of christian social order, unworthy of a place in the Apocalyptical prophecies: apart from their relation to morality, they are of no greater estimation in God’s sight, and of no more interest to the church of Christ, than the contentions of ephemeral insects.

It is in the history of the seven vials, we have a full development of the plagues which are incidentally noticed in this and in other predictions. In that connexion we shall have a better opportunity, than is now offered, of developing the moral causes, and the moral tendency, of the present convulsions of the civilized world. Let us, in the meantime, pass on to a consideration of

The Vintage.

Verses 17—20.—And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God, &c. &c.

Out of the temple, verse 17, the apostle saw in vision, another angel coming forth with a sharp sickle. The ministers of the church, influenced by the same spirit which caused their predecessors to pray to the Redeemer that he might reap the harvest, find on this occasion a work suited to their own character to perform. The Son of man, at their solicitations, punishes the nations by breaking the potsherds of the earth against each other, without permitting the ministers of peace to take an active part in these deeds of blood: but they are directed to gather the clusters of the vine, and to cast them into the winepress, that they may be trodden by Messiah. They are called to this duty by the angel which hath power over fire. The fire of the altar, which consumed the sacrifice, is the symbol of diving, justice demanding and receiving atonement. The two witnesses by their prayers and their sermons, Rev. xi. 5. had power to send fire from their mouth to devour the adversary; and they in the present case, which is their last contest with the antichristian empire, call upon their cotemporaries to the vintage. They denounce the judgment which now admits not of delay.

It is the vine of the earth, to which the angel with the sickle is called. The church of the symbolical earth, apostate from the faith, like degenerate Israel, is the vine of Sodom. Deut. xxxii. 32. Their grapes are grapes of gall, and their clusters are bitterness. All the corrupt ecclesiastical systems of the Latin world, are pointed out as the vine of the earth, to distinguish them from the true vine: and the gathering of the clusters into the wine-press, by the angel of the temple, under the superintendency of the Son of man, indicates, the complete separation which is about to be made by the exertions of faithful ministers, giving up to their final ruin the apostate churches of Christendom.

Church and state are combined in the antichristian apostacy. The harvest, first in order, and now going on, falls more immediately on the secular power, but greatly affects the ecclesiastical interests of the empire. It especially denotes those revolutions of government, which turn the horns of the beast against the mother of harlots.[18] The vintage, which succeeds the harvest, and is a much more dreadful judgment, symbolizes more immediately the destruction of corrupt churches; but will necessarily involve in irretrievable ruin all who make a common cause with the vine of the earth: for the beast and the false prophet, and all who worship the image of the beast, shall be destroyed; the great men and the mighty men, the kings and the captains, and all both free and bond, both small and great, shall give their flesh to be meat for the fowls of heaven.

The wine-press was usually at some distance without the city; and the advocates of the apostacy are now more evidently without the pale of the church, than ever they were at any former period. Never, until the time of the third angel, was eternal death expressly denounced in scripture upon every advocate of antichristianism: and it is only at the time of the vintage that the saints are completely distinguished from the supporters of the beast and the false prophet. Then, God’s people have all obeyed the command, “COME OUT OF HER.”

Thus separated, the enemy is put in the winepress, and Christ alone doth tread it in his fury. He treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.[19] Great is the consequent destruction. The blood comes to the horse-bridles by the space of 1600 furlongs.

The 1600 Stadia, Σταδιων χιλιων εξακοσιων, are about 200 miles, the distance between the city of Rome and the river Po, and are supposed to designate the pope’s own territories, called Peter’s patrimony, as the peculiar seat of the last war.

It is not impossible that this may be the case; but it is much more probable, that the 20th verse is to be taken metaphorically, as denoting a very great and general slaughter. If the claims of tyranny and superstition be effectually defeated, and correct principles established on their ruin, it is of little consequence to the moral world and to the church of God, where battles are fought, and whether the neighbourhood of Rome, of Paris, or of London, be the seat of war. The event, blessed be God, is beyond a doubt. We leave the circumstances to be ordered by infinite wisdom. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

III. Application.

1. Let true Christians cherish the hope of a speedy release from antichristian bondage. The TIME in which this last judgment is to be inflicted is very distinctly declared. It is at the close of the period of 1260 years. If these years are to be calculated according to the mode in use among the Jews, and supposed to be indicated in these prophecies, each of them will be nearly six days shorter, than a year of our calendar: 30 days to each month, and 12 months to a year, will make the year to consist of 360 days. Of such years, 1260 amount to less than 1243 according to our calculation. Should we follow the respectable expositors who take this method of computation, we must conclude that the final overthrow of the beast and the papacy will certainly take place in the year 1848: and those who live 34 years from the present day [i.e., 1814] will see an end to all tyranny and superstition.

I by no means admit the correctness of this mode of interpretation. The author of the Apocalypse, although he reveals years in symbolical language, intends by this language to give us true years. Our own Calendar being according to nature, is according to truth, and the 1260 years I take to be of that description. The years of Daniel’s 70 weeks, and of the Arabian locusts and Euphratean horsemen, were all the common solar time: and of course the man of sin retains power until the year 1866. It will therefore take somewhat more than half a century from the present time, to bring the Latin apostacy to a full end. Admitting, then, that the harvest is commenced, we must expect its continuance for twenty or thirty years to come: for the seventh vial, with which the vintage synchronizes, will be very speedy in its operations; and the overthrow of the present political establishments of the Roman world will require much more time than the execution of vengeance upon the vine of the earth. Let the secular power be withdrawn from corrupt churches; let the impious policy which has become venerable by its antiquity, and which is sanctioned by a thousand various interests and prejudices, be once at an end; and, even though a more absurd system should have a temporary elevation, it will be infinitely more easy for the friends of righteousness on the earth, to correct the evil, and raise upon its ruins the Christian order in church and state.

Both the events of this age, and the sure word of prophecy, indicate the increase of knowledge, and a great and growing reformation. If the beast of the abyss, after the friends of reform have become so powerful, as to occupy his whole attention, take the alarm, and in his agony slay the witnesses, their death, and the joy of their enemies, will be of short duration. The witnesses shall arise after three days and a half, and fear shall fall upon their adversaries.

Thirty years in addition to the 1260, Dan. xii. 11. will bring about a general improvement among the nations of the world; and 45 years more, or 1335 years from the rise of the Roman apostacy, which will bring us to the year of our Lord 2001, will reveal the happy millennium in its full light and glory. Satan shall not then have it in his power to disturb the repose of the saints; to practise his temptation among the churches; or to influence, as the god of this world, the councils of civil rulers. The benevolent principles of Christianity shall then be universally known and received; and the world shall be made to acknowledge their happy influence over society. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.[20]

2. Be persuaded, Christians, from a review of the contents of this chapter, to co-operate with the friends of truth among the nations. These, although scattered and disunited, are still numerous. There are on Mount Zion along with the Lamb 144,000, having their Father's name written in their foreheads—the pious of different communities.

The means of reformation are already becoming visible. A powerful excitement is communicated to the Christian world. Unparalleled efforts are made for the diffusion over the nations, of the light of the gospel. Be not terrified at the noise of the battle. Lo, upon the white cloud your Saviour sitteth, having on his head a golden crown. He directs both the harvest and the vintage of wrath, and he animates to exertion the children of promise.

Lay aside the jealousies, and the prejudices of party spirit. Adhere to the truth, contend for the faith, adopt, exemplify, perpetuate the order and discipline of the sanctuary. It is no time for the friends of religion to give play to their passions, to indulge in schemes of selfish policy, to encourage emulation and strife for pre-eminence. Rather let the heralds of the divided churches boldly grasp the standard of Messiah, and march forward at the head of the people with displayed banners. Understanding and anticipating the character of the millennium, let all the churches aim at conformity to it: Awakening from their stupor—arising from their languor—returning from their wandering, let them all, however far now separated, ascend the several sides of Mount Zion, until meeting at its high summit, they shall in the company of the Lamb, join in the music of the harp, and become ONE FOLD. AMEN. Even so, come. Lord Jesus.

THE END


FOOTNOTES:


[1] Mosh. Vol. I. page 372. Phil. 1797.

[2] The four living creatures. See page 55. [HERE]

[3] Fraser’s Key.

[4] Verse 3. ὁι ηγορασμενοι. Verse 4. ουτοι ηγορασθησαν. They were bought. Purchase implies both contract and price paid. The price is the blood of the covenant. The covenant determines the extent of the purchase, and of course defines the atonement. Without a covenant, sufferings could not make atonement.

[5] The term appropriation has been disputed. To appropriate, say the English Dictionaries, is, “to consign to some particular person or use.” The opposition to the appropriation of faith proceeds from ignorance of English, or from heresy and impiety. By receiving the offered Saviour, I make that my own which was not my own before. Not to appropriate, is not to make the Saviour mine. It is to reject him. It is unbelief. An unappropriating faith, term it as you will, is the faith of devils. The man who has it, whatever may be his pretensions, is certainly graceless.

I with pleasure quote the words of a great man, and a sensible divine. President Edwards. He understood this subject—alas! a rare quality. “In order to an union’s being established between two intelligent active beings, so as they should be looked upon as one, there should be the mutual act of both. What is real in the union, is the foundation of what is legal. Conversion is that great change by which we are brought from sin to Christ, and by which we become believers in him. Our minds must be changed, that we may believe. Repentance, in its more general abstracted nature, is only a sorrow for sin, and forsaking of it, which is a duty of natural religion; but evangelical repentance hath more than this essential to it; a dependence of soul on the Mediator for deliverance from sin is of the essence of it. Justifying repentance has the nature of faith. There is some worship of God in justifying repentance; but that there is not in any other repentance, but that which has a sense of, and faith in, the divine mercy.”

Sermon on Justification by FAITH ALONE.

[6] Mark xiii. 21—23.

[7] 2 Kings xiii. 21. Gen. xlv. 21. Rom. vii. 9. and xiv. 9.

[8] Psa. cxxxviii. 7.

[9] Hos. vi. 2. Ezra ix. 8.

[10] Psa. lxxxv.

[11] Hos. xiv. 7.

[12] Who occupies to the church of England, the relation which Luther and Calvin are said to hold to the Lutheran and reformed? Who is symbolized by the angel? whether the first head of angelic purity, Henry VIII. or the female head, the Lady Elizabeth; Mr. Faber does not say. The concession, that Calvin was the second angel of reform, is however unexpected.

[13] Mosh. Vol. III. page 118—121.

[14] Page 167. [HERE]

[15] Mosh. Vol. IV. pages 47, 48. Dr. Maclaine’s Note.

[16] Isa. li. 17—25. Psa. lxxv. 8.

[17] See Page 217. [HERE]

[18] France, it has been correctly observed by one of the most distinguished and intelligent men of our own country, the Rev. Dr. Dwight, President of Yale College, “France, under the Republican government, and under that of the present emperor, has done more toward the accomplishment of this work, a thousand times more, than all mankind beside.” Discourse on the National Fast. Aug. 20, 1812.

[19] Rev. xix. 15, 16.

[20] Dan. xii. 12.