By John B. Romeyn, D.D.
Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Cedar-Street, New-York.
ISAIAH LXVI. 10—24.
Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: that ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations ; that ye may milk out and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the LORD shall be known towards his servants, and his indignation towards his enemies. For behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens, behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD. For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel briny an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD. For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that hare transgressed against me. For their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
The Church of God constitutes the salt of the world, preserving it from entire corruption and that ruin which would inevitably result from such corruption. She is the perfection of beauty [Ps. 50. 2.] in the earth, for whose preservation, glory, and prosperity, the Lord Jesus Christ, in his mediatorial character, exercises the government of the universe. He directs all the movements of his providence to the accomplishment of this grand, this sublime purpose, making the wrath of man to praise him, and restraining the remainder of wrath. Such is the consolatory and animating information which we find upon record, in the sure word of prophecy. Amidst all the darkness, which to human reason envelopes the divine government, both in relation to the World and the Church, this word of prophecy shines like a light to the eye of faith, unfolding the path of duty, and the springs of comfort. What though “the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing:” what though “the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD, and against his Anointed, saying. Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” [Ps. 2. 1-9.] Since such is the decree of God, the Church is safe in the midst of a hostile world, a world in arms against its Sovereign. Her borders will continue to enlarge, though with many interruptions, through fearful apostacies and bitter persecutions, until they extend “from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.” [Ps. 72. 8.] To her final establishment over all opposition; to her tranquility in all her borders; to her security from all enemies; to her purity, and to her glory, “looking forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners,” [Solomon’s Song 6. 10.] the prophet attests in the text. No subject, therefore, can be more suitable to our present meeting, [The annual meeting of the New-York Missionary Society, April 7, 1812.] since Missionary Institutions are founded upon the prospects of the Church according to prophecy. Let us then, without attempting a critical analysis of the words, examine,
I. The future state of the Church as here predicted.
II. The means by which this state will be produced.
III. The circumstances which will precede and usher in this state.
The first will excite our desires for the accomplishment of prophecy; the second will exhibit our duty to engage as workers with God for this accomplishment, and the third directs our faith as to the aspect of present circumstances, and their ultimate issue.
1. Let us first attend to the future state of the Church as here predicted. This is unfolded to us under the figurative expressions of “New heavens and a new earth,” whose creation you find announced in the preceding chapter. [v. 17.] They evidently refer to a great and universal change in the Church, which in its effects, when they are accomplished, will produce a great and universal change in the world; for heaven is the symbol for the Church of Christ, and the earth for the kingdoms of this world. This change commenced with the coming of Christ in the flesh, and the establishment of a new and more spiritual economy. The consummation and perfection of this change, will take place in the Millennial period, or that period when Christ shall reign with his saints upon earth, and Satan shall be bound for the space of one thousand years. [Rev. 20. 2-6.] To this period especially, the text refers our attention, and of the state of the Church then it affords us some important and interesting information. This information will be unfolded in very brief detail, for our improvement. First, the Church will constitute one visible body, united in name, doctrine, and discipline; for then the prophet says, “the glory of the Gentiles shall extend to Jerusalem; brethren shall be brought as an offering unto the LORD out of all nations, to God’s holy mountain Jerusalem; where all flesh shall come to worship before the LORD.” [v. 12, 20, 23.] “The glory of the Gentiles,” is the same with the glory of Jerusalem. As the latter consists in the gracious presence of Jehovah, and his blessings resulting from that presence, so the former unquestionably must be the accession of the Gentiles to Jehovah’s visible Church, the spiritual Jerusalem.
The brethren, of whom mention is made, are called, “your brethren,” that is, the brethren of the Church of whom the prophet speaks, “Zion, whose gates Jehovah of old loved more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” [Ps. 87. 2.]
These brethren are to be brought “out of all nations” to Jerusalem, and there all flesh shall come to worship before the LORD.
From these passages, as well as others of the same import, we are assured that the divisions which now exist in the Church shall be done away. They did not exist in the primitive Church, though extensively diffused over the earth. They originate not in the genius of the Gospel, but in the depravity of human nature, in the corruption of true religion, and in those distinctions which the separations of civil society produce. To these causes, we can satisfactorily trace the various denominations existing in the Christian Church. The real Church of God, the Spiritual Jerusalem, is but one, and never has been more than one. Thus she existed visibly under the law; thus she was actually in the commencement of the Christian æra; and thus she will be throughout the earth in the Millennial period. Then the Jew will belong to her communion as well as the Gentile.
The distinctions of names, of countries, of doctrines, and of government, will be done away. There will be but one fold as there is but one Shepherd; but one body as there is but one Head; but one spiritual community as there is but one Lord. The Reformed Dutch Church, the Church of Scotland, the Church of England, the Reformed Church of France, and the like, will not then be known; nor will believers be called by names derived from forms of government; for all division on this subject will then be terminated. The terms Arminian, Calvinist, Methodist, Lutheran, and others of the same nature, will be forgotten or lost in the term Christian, the only name which the members of the Church ought to bear.
Then the great principles of the Gospel will be received and defended by all within the Church, and that discipline which is best calculated to promote holiness of life, will be universally enforced. Believers will see, eye to eye and face to face, throughout the whole Church. As they will bear but one name, so they will avow but one system of truth, and yield obedience to but one form of government. Then the contest existing at present between the different parts of the Church will be brought to issue; and it will be proved to the satisfaction of all which scheme is correct, or in other words, which accords with the Scriptures. The strife of ages will terminate, and they who have kept apart will unite. It will be delightful to see the descendant of Abraham acknowledging a Gentile as a brother, an Episcopalian taking a Presbyterian by the hand and vowing to walk with him. No liturgy or ceremonies, no clerical dresses or ecclesiastical formalities will be allowed, save those which accord with the simplicity of faith and the character of saved sinners. The distractions of party will not be witnessed, inasmuch as there will be no place for the leaders of party. The pride of system will be unknown; for there will be no diversity of opinion on the subjects which constitute the system.
Believers will speak one language; not that of unfledged Christian Sciolists [i.e., those with little real understanding], but that of experience; not that which the experience of one, two, or three years, but of many, will dictate. Children will then keep their place as children, and novices their places as novices. The visible unity of doctrine and discipline will not be touched by unhallowed hands, or impaired under the shallow pretext of maintaining it, whilst a language is used, which admits of disagreement, or opposition to established principles.
Nor will this unity be affected by the national prejudices of Church members; those prejudices which now so often blind and mislead good men. As all the nations of the earth will be Christian, so all national feeling will be lost in the feelings which the truth produces. The human race will constitute one family, united in principles and in practice. They will regard each other as fellow-members, and as such, walk together in the bond of friendship and of love.
Secondly, The beauty and power of the Gospel will be displayed conspicuously in the conduct of those who are members of the Millennial Church; for we are told, “The hand of the Lord shall be known towards his servants, and his indignation towards his enemies; all nations and tongues shall come and see the LORD’s glory; brethren shall be brought as an offering; unto the LORD, to his holy mountain, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. And of them will the LORD take for priests and for Levites. All flesh shall worship before the LORD.” [v. 14. 18, 20, 21, 23.]
As the hand of man is the chief instrument of his power and operations, so the hand of the LORD denotes his almighty power. The exercise of this power, saith the prophet, shall be known.
The glory of the LORD is his righteousness and grace combined, as manifested in the wonderful work of redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ; a work which illustrates the perfections of Jehovah more than his works of creation and providence. This glory shall be seen by the nations.
The brethren brought to the LORD as an offering from all nations, are converts, “turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God.” [1 Thess. 1. 9.] These in their moral and spiritual state, when presented in the holy mountain, will be acceptable as the oblations under the Mosaic economy, which were offered according to God’s direction.
Of them God will take for teachers, as the priests and Levites were of old, to instruct the people.
The worship which will be offered up to the LORD, will be such as he has commanded and approves.
The different parts of this prediction, show that in the Millennial Church there will be among her members,
1. An universal light in the understanding. The knowledge which will then be enjoyed, will not be confined to a few, but extended to all. “The earth,” saith the prophet, “shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea”; [Isa. 11. 9.] nay, “the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold as the light of seven days.” [Isa. 30. 26.] The Church will then be blessed with teachers abundantly qualified to instruct in all those matters which pertain to God’s glory and human happiness. Men will then be well and thoroughly acquainted with the principles of human conduct. That miserable class, who now are “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,” [2 Tim. 3. 7.] will then be extinct. The truth will be known, for “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased;” [Dan. 12. 4.] even knowledge of every thing which pertains to God’s glory and the benefit of sinners. The Spirit of God will, to an extraordinary degree, enlighten the minds of the members of the Millennial Church ; so that they will understand their duty and privilege, in all the relations of life, social as well as religious, and civil or political as well as social. In a word, “they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know the LORD; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD.” [Jer. 31. 34.]
2. Light in the understanding, according to the correct philosophy of the human mind, produces excitement in the affections. The intellectual powers of the soul being called into exercise and directed in a proper channel, the active powers obey. As the sun by his light imparts heat, so the saving knowledge of the truth, is connected with the influence of that truth over the heart. The will following the conclusions of the understanding, that which is spiritually discerned to be right and good, is chosen.
In the Millennial period, this will be especially the case. Then the members of the Church will be universally holy in their desires and in the objects of their love. The power of the Gospel will be felt more generally than at any preceding period. Sin, even all sin will be hated, avoided, and resisted, and its opposite will be loved. The affections of those who have named the name of Christ, will be placed on things above. Their hearts will peculiarly be kept with all diligence. They will constantly be stirring up their graces, cherishing the warmest and liveliest emotions of love to him who loved them and gave himself for them.
3. The holiness of life will be more general and striking, than at any former period. Luxury and excess will then be corrected. Persons of rank and affluence will not abuse their blessings to gratify pride and vanity; nor the abundance of their tables, to promote gluttony, drunkenness, and lust. [Fraser’s Key.] For we are told by the prophet Zechariah, that “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. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.” [Zech. 14. 20, 21.] The members of the Church will then be emphatically “shining lights.” Their walk and conversation will display the power of religion over their hearts. They will “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things;” [Titus 2. 10.] “be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” [1 Cor. 15. 58.] Those fearful falls, those sad failures in duty, which now so often occur, to the reproach of the gospel, will then be, if not unknown, at least scarcely known. Believers then will visibly walk with God, displaying the fruits of the Spirit in public and private, in all the relations of life.
Thirdly, The spiritual enjoyments of the members of the Church, will then be overflowing; for they will “suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; they will milk out and be delighted with the abundance of her glory; they shall be borne upon her sides, and dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforteth, so the LORD will comfort them. And their hearts shall rejoice, and their bones shall flourish like an herb.” [v. 11, 12, 13, 14.]
This language of the prophet, which needs no explanation, directs our view to the privileges of the Church, and the effects which those privileges will have upon her members. These privileges are her glory, and may be summed up in a sense of pardoning mercy, the enjoyment of covenant mercy, the aid of the Holy Spirit, and the hope of eternal happiness. These impart to the members of the Church solid and permanent pleasure.
In the Millennial period, as spiritual know- ledge will be universally diffused, so the privileges of believers will be universally understood; and as the knowledge thus diffused will be thorough and intimate, so the consolations arising; from this knowledge will be abundant, overflowing; yea, more than abundant and overflowing. All that is delightful, tender, joyful, sweet, encouraging, exhilarating, transporting, will then be experienced; not in a small measure, or only now and then, but in full measure, from day to day. Their very bodies will feel the influence of these consolations to an astonishing degree. No wasting sicknesses, nor corroding cares, such as are now experienced, will then harass and diminish the human family. “No more shall there be there an infant short-lived: nor an old man who hath not fulfilled his days; for he that dieth at an hundred years, shall die a boy.” [Isaiah 65. 20. Lowth’s translation.] “The voice of weeping shall no more be heard in Jerusalem, nor the voice of crying:” for “the days of her mourning shall be ended.” [Isaiah 65. 19. and 9. 20.]
Fourthly, There will be in this period universal peace. The LORD “will extend peace to the Church like a river, and the members thereof will go forth and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against the LORD. Their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring to all flesh.” [v. 12, 24.]
We have already said, that there will be no parties in the Millennial Church; men then will not say, “one, I am of Paul, another, I of Apollos, and another, I of Cephas.” There will, therefore, be peace among her members; for altar will not be erected against altar, throughout her borders. And as her borders shall extend from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth, so the peace she shall enjoy will be universal.
In fact, the nations and kingdoms of this world, will then be the nations and kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ. A complete and thorough change will then take place in the governments of nations. The magistrate will then be, what he ought ever to be, according to the design of his office, a minister of God for good. The kings and judges of the earth will then do, what they now ought to do, “kiss the Son,” that is, acknowledge the mediatorial authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. The State will then be the handmaid of the Church, The officers of the one will co-operate with those of the other, for the promotion of God’s glory, and the happiness of men. Hence, there will be no wars during this period, nor rumours of wars. The nations, with their rulers, being obedient to the faith once delivered to the saints, the influence of that faith will preserve them from variance, jealousies, or wars. The confused noise of the battle will no more be heard, and the garments rolled in blood will not be seen. All the enemies of the Church will be slain, and their memory be an abhorrence to all flesh.
Thus delivered from the hands of those who are her enemies ; protected and nursed by the magistracy; united in her members, peace will indeed be extended to her as a river. There will be nothing to hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain. The very beasts of the field will be at peace with men, as well as with each other. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together ; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den.” [Is. 11. 6-8.] Such is the glowing language in which the peace of the Millennial period is predicted by the prophet.
Fifthly and lastly, This state of the Church will be permanent, not transient; “for as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.” [v. 22, 23.]
The duration of this period, we are informed, is one thousand years. [Rev. 20.] As in a few instances, attempts have been made to explain these years as prophetic, making 360,000 civil years, it may be proper to mention, that those writers who have paid most attention to the symbolical language of prophecy, and are best acquainted with it, do with one voice reject this construction. It does not come within the scope of my design to detail their reasons. For the space then of 1000 years the Church shall enjoy all that happiness, peace, holiness, knowledge, prosperity, and blessedness, which have merely been sketched in a few prominent particulars.
“Let it be observed, however,” I use the words of another, “that the Church of Christ shall not be oppressed nor overcome by her enemies, when those thousand years shall expire. She shall continue triumphant to the end of the world, and for ever in a future state. By the Millennium is meant, that for these 1000 years, no attempt whatever shall be made to disturb the peace and interrupt the prosperity of the Church of Christ, and of the world; that there shall be no persecutions nor wars on the whole earth: but at the end of these 1000 years, certain persons, styled Gog and Magog, instigated by the Devil, shall attack the Church of Christ, and by bloody wars shall disturb the peace of the whole world for a time: but that they shall be disappointed in their wicked attempts, and totally destroyed: and that by their destruction, the Church of Christ, and the world, shall be left in a state of complete and final triumph and peace.” [Johnston on the Revelation.] So permanently, then, will the new heavens and new earth remain; so long will be the continuance of the Church, both of her seed, and of her name.
Let us now pass on,
II. To the means by which this great event will be produced. This is exhibited to us in these words, “I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape out of them unto the nations; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering.” [v. 19, 20.] We have here the instrument used, and the agents by whom it is employed. Let us briefly attend to each in order.
1. The instrument, is “the declaration of God’s glory.”
We have already explained the meaning of God’s glory, under the first head, as referring to the display of God’s perfections in the plan of redemption through Christ. In this view, the gospel is God’s glory, and to declare this glory, is to preach the gospel. By this gospel, and in no other way, are sinners converted. The law is a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ; [Gal. 3. 24.] but the law alone does not convert. The Spirit of God uses the gospel to create sinners anew, and not the law. Does the preaching of the gospel, then, make void the law? God forbid! It establishes the law; for it exhibits “Christ as the end of the law for righteousness.” [Rom. 10. 4.] He magnified the law by his obedience; he satisfied it by his death. In him is life, and in him alone. He is “the image of the invisible God,” [Col. 1. 15.] and in him God is reconciling the world unto himself. [1 Cor. 5. 19.] In this character. He constitutes the sum and substance of the gospel. To him the eye of faith must be directed; and from his grace sinful men must obtain ability to glorify God. To exhibit these truths, is to preach the gospel; for preaching the gospel is not preaching morals, or the law, but Christ. In him, and in him only, there is “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace.” [Ephes. 1. 7.] He came “to save that which was lost:” [Matt. 17. 11.] his blood cleanses from all sin: [1 John 1. 7.] he saves his people from their sins. [Matt. 1. 21.]
These truths, which are gospel truths, make the gospel the instrument in the hand of the Spirit to awaken dead sinners, and give them life. Though under the condemnation of the law, yet pardon is freely offered through Christ. God, though he is righteous and holy, manifests himself as gracious and merciful. In this view, as able to forgive without violating his justice, he has made himself known to us. The gospel knows of no God but God in Christ. As such, we are commanded to fear, love, obey, and trust him. The glory of God consists pre-eminently in his being just, and yet the Justifier of the ungodly who believe in Christ. And this exhibition of God as a God in Christ, was that, which the Apostles and primitive Christian teachers gave. This same exhibition you find in the writings of the first Reformers, as also of the most eminent ministers of the gospel in Europe, who succeeded them. This is the exhibition which breaks the hard heart, and captivates the wandering affections. What wonderful success crowned the labours of the Apostles, and in later days, the labours of the Reformers ; and in still later days, the labours of [George] Whitfield, [Gilbert] Tennant, and a host of worthies. They preached the Lord, the Lord God gracious and merciful, through Christ. They preached Christ crucified, the power of God, and the wisdom of God. They exhorted sinners to flee to the city of refuge; to accept of salvation as a gift. Thus is Christ now preached by [Johannes] Vanderkemp, [William] Carey, and others, whom God hath blessed. Thus is the glory of the Lord declared with success among the Hottentots and Hindoos, and other Pagans; and thus will it be declared to all the nations before their conversion. The gospel, the glad tidings of a Redeemer, a Surety, through whom sinners can be restored to the favour of God, and enjoyment of heaven; this is the instrument by which the world will be converted to the faith.
2. The agents who will use this instrument, are described as “those that escape,” viz. from the corruptions of their brethren. These God will “set as a sign” among the nations. They will be Gentiles and Jews.
The Church at present, as you know, is composed of Gentiles. Very few of the descendants of faithful Abraham have, since the apostolic period, united themselves to her. She is divided into parties, between whom there is much disagreement, to say the least, and but little friendship or harmony. The different denominations who belong to her, are all more or less corrupted. It is from those who escape these corruptions, that God will raise up Missionaries to declare his glory to the nations. Missionaries must be men such as the apostles and martyrs were. Those whose labours God will own, must be pre-eminently holy men, men who like Caleb follow the Lord fully. [Num. 14. 24.] Until such men appear to undertake the work, success need not to be expected. Such men God will raise up when he is about making the new heavens and the new earth.
Previous to that period, the Gentile Churches will fall far short of their primitive glory. They will become more and more worldly and corrupt, so as to draw down upon them the displeasure of God. From those who then shall escape the corruption, God will send forth his messengers. But more particularly are the Jews meant. They will be converted before the Heathen shall be universally subdued to Christ. Though we have reason to expect that the whole nation will return to the promised land, yet previous to such restoration, God will snatch many of them from the midst of their countrymen, and make them monuments of his grace. As the casting of them off was the reconciling of the world, so the receiving of them shall be life from the dead. [Rom. 11. 15.] From a variety of considerations which the prophecies have originated, I have little doubt but the converted Jews will be the chief agents in carrying the gospel to the nations, and in subduing them to the faith. Let one passage suffice: “In those days, it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, we will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you.” [Zech. 8. 23.]
Until, therefore, the Jews be converted, we need not look for the Millennium ; for, from among them chiefly, messengers will be sent to declare the glory of the Lord. Their character as Jews, the mercy they have experienced, the recollection of God’s dealings with their fathers, his care of their nation, and a thousand similar circumstances, will all conspire to make them pre-eminently qualified to act as agents to make known the graciousness of the Lord to the remotest ends of the earth.
III. Let us, lastly, attend to the circumstances which shall precede and usher in the Millennial period. These are unfolded to us as follows: “For behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens, behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.” [v. 15, 16, 17.]
The subjects of the Lord’s indignation are open, or concealed enemies. Open enemies are Pagans and Mahometans; concealed enemies are the adherents of the man of sin, and false Christians among the different protestant denominations. By some, it is supposed that the prophet here refers to the battle of Armageddon, of which mention is made in the book of Revelation. [16. 16.] He does not, however, according to the most correct opinion I have been able to form on this subject, refer to this one event; but rather, to a series of awful judgments, including this event, and terminated by it, which will precede the latter-day glory. By such judgments God established his Church in Canaan, driving out the Heathen before her. By such judgments he established his Church in the Roman empire, after Christ’s incarnation. And by such judgments he will establish his Church in the world.
These judgments in the establishment of his Church in Canaan, were not confined to the Heathen. Before the Church entered the promised land, she herself was purged of her rebellious members by fire and sword. Before she made her footing sure in the Roman empire, she was purified by fire and sword. Thus also before the Millennial day, the Church must be tried, and pass through the waters of affliction. The Lord will previously plead with flesh, even all flesh, by his fire and sword. The particular judgments he will inflict, can not all be designated. But, among them are bloody and long continued wars, earthquakes, the eruptions of volcanoes, thunder and lightning, hail, tornadoes, and that long, fearful catalogue of diseases, which waste the spirits and terminate the lives of men. In these different ways, the Lord will plead with all flesh, before he brings in his ancient people together with the fulness of the Gentiles. Having done so in time past, when he was about appearing in behalf of Zion, we must expect that he will do so before the latter-day glory. Many passages from the prophets might be adduced, to establish this truth, but time forbids. Let one or two suffice. “Proclaim ye this,” saith Joel, “among the Gentiles. Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plow-shares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: come, get ye down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake.” [Joel 3. 9-16.] “I will turn my hand,” saith God by Isaiah, to the Church, “upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness. The faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.” [Isaiah 1. 25-28.]
In this way, by pouring out his indignation upon his enemies, will he usher in the Millennium. In these judgments, though his people will share, yet they will be supported by his grace. They will be enabled to enter into their chambers, to shut their doors about them, and to hide themselves as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. [Is. 26. 20.] “The LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.” [Joel 3. 16.]
Is this, then, you may ask, the prospect before us?
Such is the conclusion I am compelled to draw from the prophecies of Scripture. Would that I could believe with those who think that the Church has seen her worst days. Certainly it would gladden my heart, and remove present anxiety. For in a day like this, who that loves the Lord Jesus, does not feel anxiety for the ark of God? It is the sheet-anchor of the world. He that forsakes this ark, or is ignorant of it, must be overwhelmed in that flood of calamity which is let loose upon the nations of the earth. The Lord indeed has come with fire and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. The Lord indeed is pleading with all flesh by his fire and his sword. I need not advert to facts, they are well known. And he who cannot in them see the judgments of God, is blind indeed. Every where, here and abroad, we see these judgments, written in letters of blood. In terrible indignation, with marks of desolation, the Lord is purging his Church, and punishing the world.
Before the Millennial period, there will be a general and thorough destruction of civil and ecclesiastical establishments throughout the earth. The former things must be done away before the new heavens and the new earth will be created. Not to warn of the approaching storm, therefore, would be cruelty to the generation now starting up around us. Men are dreaming that the evil days are past, and thus neglecting preparation for meeting them in time to come. A day of darkness and calamity is unquestionably coming upon the Church and the world, before the latter-day glory.
What then is the use of missionary exertions? you may ask. In reply, I ask you, when you expect a storm, or any severe attack, why do you strive to secure that which you consider most valuable? It is our duty, the duty of the Gentile Church, to deposit the seed of the gospel in commanding stations, that during the approaching storm, it may silently and secretly vegetate, and presently spring up and bear fruits. Duty is ours, and consequences are the Lord’s. We therefore are bound to go forward in this work, as the Israelites were commanded to go forward when they had reached the Red Sea; [Exod. 14. 15.] but in the discharge of this duty, we are bound to exercise discretion. One class of men have been too long neglected, that is, the Jews. You have already heard what agency they will have in introducing the new heavens and the new earth. Our chief efforts ought to be directed to them.
Next to them, the Heathen in our own land claim our immediate attention. They are dependent upon us, and we are responsible for them. For their benefit this Society was formed, and to them, so far as opportunity permits, we have sent the messengers of peace. Our success has not indeed equaled our wishes, but we will not despair. With other societies of the same nature, we wish to be found doing. We wish to deposit the treasure of the gospel in the earth, that at the appointed time it may bring forth fruit to God’s glory. We want means and we want labourers.
We stand before you this night, as Moses stood in the camp of Israel, and inquire. Who is on the LORD’s side? [Exodus 32. 26.] Ye who desire the glory of Zion; who pray for it, and look for it; we solicit your aid. Ye who wish to be workers with God in the promotion of his cause, turn us not away from your presence. On all who call themselves Christians, we have a strong, a powerful claim. Reject us not; for you then, so far as we have an opportunity of advancing the interests of Christ’s kingdom, by rejecting us, oppose our Master. In aiding Missionary exertions upon proper principles, you are promoting your own benefit. They who are on the LORD’s side, when he shall plead with all flesh, shall experience his gracious support; but they who are on the side of his enemies, will be slain.
The day is hastening which will terminate all doubt. The clouds have been gathering, and are still thickening. The thunder has been rolling, and grows deeper, and more awful. The tempest has from afar been approaching, and is drawing nigher. Presently the LORD shall “come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.” AMEN.
As in the preceding Sermon, together with the first in this volume, the author has expressed his belief, that the Church in the Roman Empire, the Latin earth, has not seen her darkest days; he takes the liberty of introducing in this place, the grounds of his belief, in an extract from two Sermons, preached September 8, 1808, a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, appointed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. This subject is the more important, because, if the belief prove to be correct in the issue, the Church out of the Latin earth, on account of the commercial and political connexions subsisting between different parts of the civilized world, will necessarily be greatly affected.
“By the witnesses are meant, faithful christians in general; all the true followers of Jesus Christ, as distinct from apostates and false professors. This is evident, from the name given them of the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks, standing before the God of the earth:” [Rev. 11. 4.] in which allusion is made to a prophetic vision of Zechariah. He saw a candlestick of gold, with two olive trees by it; one on each side: which the angel explained to be the “two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” [Zechar. 4. throughout.] These were Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Joshua, the high-priest; so called because they were set apart to their respective offices by the anointing of oil. [Johnston on the Rev. vol. I. p. 373.] They had the superintendence and management of re-building the temple, and restoring the city of Jerusalem; both which had been trodden under foot of the Gentiles. As such they are symbols of all true believers, who are kings and priests unto God and his Christ, by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. In this character they are represented to us, as witnesses for the truth, who, by their exertions, seek to preserve the church of God, the spiritual temple, from utter destruction by her enemies. These are described as a new race of Gentiles, who had succeeded in gaining possession of the outer court, which they had trodden under foot. The witnesses are retired to the inner court in the temple, or “holy place,” as it was called; which, under the Jewish economy, was typical of the true church on earth, under the new testament. Here they prophesy in sackcloth; not literally predict; but full of the Spirit of God, they preach God’s word, and bear witness to the truth, against prevailing apostacy, under the greatest discouragements, and the heaviest persecutions of their enemies. They are said to be two in number, because that is the number required in the law, and approved by the gospel. Upon former occasions, two were joined together in commission; as Moses and Aaron, in Egypt; Elijah and Elisha, in the apostacy of the ten tribes; Zerubbabel and Joshua, after the Babylonish captivity. “As the testimony of the witnesses is to be of equal duration with the apostacy itself, it cannot well be meant of any two particular persons: nor is there any reason to understand it of any two particular churches, or bodies of men in perpetual succession.” [(Moses) Lowman, p. 109. Note.] “The spirit of prophecy,” in the words of bishop [Thomas] Newton, “teaches us, that certain persons should appear in every age, during the reign of Antichrist (the grand apostacy,) few indeed in number, but sufficient to establish the truth, and clearly attest the corruptions of the Church of Rome, and the anti-christian supremacy of her head.”—This appears to be the general opinion of the best writers upon the subject.
“Neither my plan, nor my time, will permit me to enter into further particulars concerning their character and work, as exhibited in prophecy. Their death and resurrection, by many worthy persons of former as well as present times, are supposed to be past. Some refer these events to the murder of John Huss and Jerome of Prague, by order of the council of Constance, and the subsequent triumph of their followers in Bohemia, over the imperial forces. Others, to the poor protestants in the valleys of Piedmont, who were expelled in 1686, at the instigation of the French, by the duke of Savoy; but who afterwards regained possession of the same, sword in hand. Others to the destruction of the league of Smalcald, by Charles V. and the restoration of their cause afterwards, by Maurice, elector of Saxony. Others again to the revocation of the edict of Nantz, by Louis XIV. and the French revolution, which introduced religious liberty into that country. An attentive examination of the subject, however, has. led me to conclude the event is still to come. For,
“1. No calamity has yet befallen the true Church by the hands of THE MAN OF SIN, THE SON OF PERDITION, which answers, in a satisfactory manner, to the symbolical representation of slaying the two witnesses. The faithful followers of Jesus, who are meant by them, have never yet generally, throughout the western empire, at any one period, ceased from their testimony against the grand apostacy. They have visibly existed, as witnesses for the truth, in one part, if they have been destroyed in another; as the history of their persecutions fully proves. And yet, an universal destruction of them seems to be meant. This cannot be a destruction of their civil privileges, nor a deprivation of the existence which they formerly had, as members of society: for their character of witnesses, and their work of prophesying relates, not to political, but spiritual matters. When they were butchered in scores before the Reformation, in many parts of Europe, and treated like beasts of prey, they still prophesied—prophesied in spite of danger and death. As civil privileges, therefore, and the protection of the magistracy, were not necessary for them to fulfil their work, the termination of that work by external violence, cannot be the destruction of these privileges. It must rather refer to some awful persecution of them—some universal slaughter, far exceeding any of former times; by which, within the bounds of the western empire, the church, to all human appearance, will be exterminated. Not that all true believers will be slain; many will yet remain; but they will be silent—they will not be known. They will sigh for abounding iniquity, but will not dare to appear as witnesses, and prophesy, even in sackcloth. In this character, they will cease to exist; and from this work they will completely withdraw themselves. Thus, in the days of Ahab, Jezebel thought she had cut off all the true prophets of the Lord but Elijah. No more were publicly known, as witnesses for the truth; and yet there were seven thousand hidden ones, who had never bowed the knee to Baal. [1 Kings 18. and 19. chapters.]
“2. The witnesses still prophesy in sackcloth : that is, the true church is still in a suffering, depressed state. Even where protestant principles are professed, the ways of Zion mourn, through the universal prevalence of essential errors, of studied indifference to the truth as it is in Jesus, and of gross immorality. The very spirit of the man of sin too much pervades and animates the communities, which have visibly separated from him. Many of his superstitious rites are retained with pertinacity by some of them, and he himself is no longer viewed as the SON OF PERDITION, even that wicked one, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” He still reigns dominant over a great part of Europe, as the Vicar of God, and, until very recently, his followers oppressed and persecuted the protestants in Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Germany. In Spain, Portugal, and Naples, heresy, by which is meant protestant principles, is, by the laws, still punishable with death. The true church is evidently, therefore, still held in bondage; the witnesses still, therefore, prophesy in sackcloth. If they have been slain, they have not yet been raised; for their death will be, not only the last persecution of protestants, but the last stage of their depression, which will be followed by a glorious day for the true church. The spirit of life from God will enter into the witnesses, and they will stand upon their feet. They will be miraculously raised, in their character of witnesses, to the terror and confusion of their enemies. They will testify anew to the truth, but not in sackcloth: for they will ascend up to heaven in a cloud. The faithful followers of Christ—the true church, will become dominant over her adversaries throughout their own territories. The tenth part of the Roman city will fall by an earthquake, which will destroy seven thousand men: and the remnant, being affrighted, will give glory to the God of heaven. Then will follow the proclamation of the angel, that the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ.
“3. The witnesses, it is expressly said, will be slain, not when they shall have finished their testimony, as we read, but when they shall draw near the close of it. [Fraser’s Key.] As they commenced their testimony with the grand apostacy, so they run parallel to it, in time, and will be brought to a violent end, three prophetic days and a half before its termination. As many years, in all probability, will elapse before this—half a century at least— with moral certainty we may conclude, that the witnesses are still prophesying in sackcloth. But as these years constitute a very small proportion of the whole number 1260, the witnesses are, strictly, drawing near the close of their testimony.
“4. I add the opinion of the great archbishop Usher, and other eminent and godly men of an early day, who, on many occasions, displayed a spirit not unlike that of prophecy. These characters, from the predictions of scripture, especially that of the death of the witnesses, looked with certainty for the revival of popery at some future day. Usher, in particular, was deeply affected with the prospect before the church, and repeatedly made known his impressions. Other names might be mentioned, were it necessary, but time forbids.
“Such are the chief grounds on which the opinion rests, that the prophetic period of which we have been speaking is yet to come. It will be a period of calamity, distress, impiety, ferocity, tyranny, superstition, and gross ignorance: a period darker than the middle ages, for even then, the witnesses prophesied, though in sackcloth: but now they will be dead, and their dead bodies will lie unburied, to feast the malice of their foes: a period in which the principles of civilization will be destroyed by those of barbarian rudeness. The state of society will be deplorable, both as it respects intercourse between man and man, and nation with nation. The bonds of union will be dissevered; the foundations of order torn up; and a lawless, unprincipled, and superstitious tyranny, in church and state, will prevail; not in one nation, but throughout the spiritual Sodom and Egypt—the mystical Babylon, among all the ten kingdoms, which have given their power to the beast.”
 To neglect these Heathen, whilst we are spending money and exerting talent for the Hindoos, &c. discovers but little of Christian discretion, in the use which we make of our money and our talent.
 Vol 3. p. 134. 3d ed. Lon. The bishop gives a very particular account of these witnesses in different periods; so also does [Moses] Lowman.
 This latter is the opinion of Mr. Bicheno in his Signs of the Times,