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power are described by the prophetit rose after that the Roman empire had been divided into ten smaller kingdoms; it reduced under its dominion three of those kingdoms:e and from the time that it had gained this ascendency, has never ceased to persecute the saints, and to assume to itself the unalienable prerogatives of the most high Godd_St. Paul's account also of the man of sin corresponds exactly with this, and confirms this application of the prophecy in the strongest mannere
The enlargement of Christ's kingdom is another event, to which the judgment before us has respectThe connexion between this and the destruction of popery is very strongly marked by the prophet: repeatedly in this chapter does he unite the two events;f teaching us thereby to expect assuredly, that as they are united in God's purpose, so shall they be also in their accomplishment
As to the time when these things shall come to pass, we know that it shall be 1260 years from the time of Antichrist; but we must wait for the event, before we can positively say from what precise period the numeration of those years must commence--Partial checks has popery already received-Indeed, at the reformation, and more especially in recent events, has its throne been shaken to the very foundations; and, as at the reformation, so at this time also, is there (though in a less degree) a correspondent increase of zeal to spread the knowledge of Chrisis-But when that idolatrous power shall be destroyed, then shall “ the kingdoms of the world speedily become the kingdoms of the Lord and his Christ"]
Not to rest in a mere historical account of these prophecies, we shall II. Deduce from them some important observations
We might not unprofitably make some remarks on the sublimity of the prophetic writings: but waving these we would observe
• The Exarchate of Ravenna, the kingdom of the Lombards, and the state of Rome.
d Who is ignorant of their claims to infallibility, and of power to dispense both pardons and indulgences? Who knows not how they have set up their authority above that of God himself, changed the institutions of his sacramental supper, prohibited to their clergy the very first ordinance of God and nature, and dispensed with every obligation human and divine?
e 2 Thess. ii. 3, 4, 8, 9. f Ver. 11-14. and ver. 26, 27.
8 This alludes to the number of Inissionaries lately sent out to the islands in the South Sea.
1. Men are only the executioners of divine justice
[There are various ways in which God punishes sinThe crimes of individuals are brought into a court of judicature, and animadverted upon by the civil magistrate, who, in that view, is the minister, yea, the representative of God himself"When whole communities offend, God commissions the sword, or pestilence, or famine to chastise them-He puts the cup of his wrath into their hands, and makes them drink it to the very dregs-As the blasphemies of Antichrist will in due season bring down the vengeance of God upon the papal hierarchy, so whatever nation abandons itself to sin, it shall surely be visited for its iniquity: God will send forth their enemies, who, as “the rod of his anger and the staff of his indignation,” shall avenge his righteous cause-Let us then view our enemies as his sword, and we shall see the surest way of obtaining its restoration to the scabbard-]
2. The judgments which now desolate the earth, will, in all probability, tend in the issue to the advancement of Christ's kingdom
[We have seen how strongly the connexion between the destruction of popery, and the establishment of Christ's kingdom is marked in the prophecy before us -Nor is it difficult to shew how the one event naturally tends to accelerate the other—That idolatrous church has fettered the minds of her votaries, and shut up all the avenues to truth: she keeps the scriptures locked up in an unknown tongue, and imposes the dogmas of men as of more weight than the declarations of God-But when her authority shall cease, men shall think for themselves, and, by “searching the scriptures daily,” be brought to the knowledge and enjoyment of Christ
We are not however to imagine that the end sanctifies the means: for, as the Assyrians, while executing the divine judgments on the Jews, sought nothing but the gratification of their own pride and ambition, for which God afterwards punished them severely, so nothing is further from the mind of our enemies than to accomplish the will of heaven: and, no doubt, when they shall have finished the work which God has determined to execute by them, he will reckon with them for their pride and blasphemy, their cruelty and rapacity-Nor ought we to suspend our exertions in opposing our enemies under the idea that we are fighting against God: for, it is the revealed will, and not the secret intentions of the Deity, that we are to regard as the rule of our conduct; and our duty both to God and our country evidently requires that we should defend all that is dear to us as men and Christians-As it would be
& Rom. xiii. 4.
our duty to exert ourselves to the utmost to alleviate the pressure of famine, pestilence, or any other judgment, so, without presuming to pry into the decrees of heaven, we should withstand to the utmost the avowed enemies of all civil order and religious liberty
Nevertheless, while we groan urder the evils which God is inflicting on us, we may derive some consolation from the thought, that God can bring good out of evil, and overrule our distresses for the extension of Christ's kingdom throughout the world-]
3. Present judgments, by whomsoever inflicted, should lead our thoughts to the judgment of the great day
[Do we behold a criminal standing at the bar to receive a sentence of condemnation or acquittal from an earthly judge? Let it bring to our minds, that we ourselves shall shortly stand before the tribunal of our God, whose award shall fix our state in endless happiness or irremidiable misery-Do we survey the desolations which are spread throughout the world? Let them teach us, that sinners will not be spared because they are many, but be adjudged to that particular state for which they are severally meet-There is indeed this difference observable, that here the righteous are involved in the same judgments as the wicked; whereas hereafter they will be selected from among them, and receive the portion allotted to them by their heavenly Father: but the wicked, how numerous soever they may be, will have the vials of God's wrath poured out upon them to the uttermost-Even now we see whole cities and kingdoms desolated, and myriads swept away by the besom of destruction: how much more then will this be the case in that day which is expressly appointed for the display of God's righteous judgment! Surely if but a Noah or a Lot be faithful to their God, only a Noah or a Lot shall be saved: but “ they who forget God,” even though they should consist of whole nations, yea, of “ all the nations" upon earth,“ shall be turned into hell,” and be overwhelmed in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone-May we all be led seriously to “ consider this, lest God pluck us away, and there be none to deliver us!”-]
i Ps. ix 17.
CCXVII. THE CONVERSION OF THE GENTILES. Zech. viii. 20—23. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, It shall yet
come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, 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.
IF we did not see that the generality of Christians, with the scriptures in their hands are yet ignorant of the plainest and most fundamental doctrines of our religion, we should wonder how the Jews, with the sacred oracles before them, could be such strangers to God's design of bringing the Gentiles into his church. If there were no other passage, in all the inspired volume, relating to the subject besides that which we have now read, they would have had abundant reason to expect that glorious event.
But the prophecy before us, however fulfilled in part in the apostolic and succeeding ages, is yet to receive, at a future period, a more complete accomplishment. In unfolding its meaning, we shall be led to consider 1. The conversion of the Gentiles
To human appearance, it must be granted, this event is very improbable: but It is certain
[It is an event foretold from the earliest ages by Moses and the prophets;" and we are confirmed in our expectation of it by Christ, and his apostles.'] It will, however, be sudden
[There will probably be no more prospect of its arrival, than there was of the restoration of the Jews from Babylon a little time before it took effect.“ A nation shall then, as it were, be born in a day.” “ As soon as the people hear of Christ, they shall obey him.” No sooner shall his standard be erected, than they shall flock to it in crowds,“ like doves to their windows." Like persons eager for some great and unexpected good, they shall “lay hold of the skirt” of him, who they think can aid them in the attainment of it. Yea, so vast and sudden will be the accession of converts to the church, that the places appropriated to divine worship shall not be
a Deut. xxxii. 21. with Rom. X. 19, 20. b Ps. lxxii. 8-11. Isai. xlix. and lx. e Luke xxi. 24. d Rom. xv. 6–12. and xi. 25.
e Isai. Ixvi. 8. fPs. xviii. 43, 44.
& Isai. Ix. 2, 3, 8.
able to contain them, and the people of God themselves shall be filled with wonder and astonishment.h] I will so be universal
[“ All the ends of the world are given to Christ as his possession."i And in that day “many and strong nations" shall unite themselves to the Lord; and men shall fear him from the rising to the setting sun." “ All shall know him, from the least of them even to the greatest." All shall be righteous:n even the most ignorant countrymen shall be consecrated to the Lord. None, or next to none, shall remain in an heathenish and unconverted state. The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as universally as the waters cover the channel of the sea.p]
Together with this assurance of the event itself, the text further sets before us II. The way in which it will be manifested
Conversion wherever it exists, uniformly produces the effects mentioned in the text 1. A cordial delight in God's ordinances
[A proud Pharisee will go to the temple as well, and perhaps as often as a repenting publican: but he never can find delight in the worship of God. Prayer is a task, that he performs either from necessity, or with a view to establish a righteousness of his own. But the true convert rejoices in opportunities of approaching God both in public and in private..
-There will indeed be many seasons when he will find his mind lamentably indisposed for holy exercises: but, when he is in a proper frame, his joy is in God alone."
Nor will any true Christian be satisfied to serve God alone: when once he has tasted the benefits of communion with God, he will desire to bring all he can to a participation of his bliss.s Nor will he readily be put off with vain excuses; he knows the danger of procrastination; and therefore says, Come, “ let us go speedily, and seek the Lord:” yea, to give more efficacy to his advice, he is glad to lead the way, and to profit others by his example, as well as by his precepts.
This will be an universally prevalent disposition in the latter day;" and it will assuredly prevail, wherever the grace of God is received in truth.]
o lb, ver.
b Isai. xlix. 18-22.
i Ps. ii. 8.
k Mal. i. 11.
u Mich. iv. 1, 2.