« PreviousContinue »
which all civilized nations now acknowledge to be childish fooleries. And so they lay one age after another, and nothing proved effectual to enlighten them. The light of nature, and their own reason, and all the wisdom of learned men, signified nothing till the scriptures came.
But when these came abroad, they were successful to bring the world to an acknowledgment of the one only true God, and to worship and serve him.
And hence it is that all that part of the world which now does own one only true God, Christians, Jews, Mahometans, and even Deists too, originally came by the knowledge of him. It is owing to this that they are not in general at this day left in Heathenish darkness. They have it all, first of all, either immediately from the scriptures, or by tradition from their fathers, who had it first from the scriptures. And doubt. less those who now despise the scriptures, and boast of the strength of their own reason, as being sufficient to lead into the knowledge of the one true God, if the gospel had never come abroad in the world to enlighten their forefathers, would have been as sottish and brutish idolators as the world in general was before the gospel came abroad. The Mahometans, who own but one true God, at first borrowed the notion from the scriptures : For the first Mahometans had been educated in the Christian religion, and apostatized from it. And this is evidential, thạt the scriptures were designed of God to be the
proper means to bring the world to the knowledge of himself, rather than human reason, or any thing else. For it is unreasonable to suppose, that the gospel, and that only, which God never designed as the proper mean for obtaining this effect, should actually obtain it, and that after human reason, which he designed as the proper mean, had been tried for a great many ages without any e
effect. If the scriptures be not the word of God, then they are nothing but darkness and delusion, yea, the greatest delusion that ever was. Now, is it reasonable to suppose, that God in his providence would make use of falsehood and delusion, and that only, to bring the world to the knowledge of himself, and that no part of it should be brought to the knowledge of him any other way?
2. The gospel's prevailing as it did against such powerful opposition, plainly shows the hand of God. The Roman gore ernment, that did so violently set itself to hinder the success of the gospel, and to subdue the church of Christ, was the most powerful human government that ever was in the world ; and not only so, but they seemed as it were to have the church in their hands. The Christians were mostly their subjects, under their command, and never took up arms to defend themselves : They did not gather together, and stand in their own defence ; they armed themselves with nothing but patience, and such like spiritual weapons : And yet this mighty power could not conquer them ; but on the contrary, Christianity conquered them. The Roman empire had subdued the world ; they had subdued many mighty and potent kingdoms; they subdued the Grecian monarchy, when they were not their subjects, and made the utmost resistance ; and yet they could not conquer the church which was in their hands; but, on the contrary, were subdued, and finally triumphed over by the church.
3. No other sufficient cause can possibly be assigned of this propagation of the gospel, but only God's own power. Nothing else can be devised as the reason of it but this. There was certainly some reason. Here was a great and wonderful effect, the most remarkable change that ever was in the face of the world of mankind since the flood ; and this effect was not without some cause. Now, what other cause can be devised but only the divine power ? It was not the outward strength of the instruments which were employed in it. At first, the gospel was preached only by a few fishermen, who were without power and worldly interest to support them. It was not their craft and policy that produced this wonderful effect ; for they were poor illiterate men. It was not the agreeableness of the story they had to tell to the notions and principles of mankind. This was no pleasant fable : A crucified God and Saviour was to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness. It was not the agreeableness of their doctrines to the dispositions of men : For nothing is more contrary to the corruptions of men than the pure doctrines of the gospel. This effect therefore can have proceeded from no other cause than the power and agency of God: And if the power of God was what was exercised to cause the gospel to prevail, then the gospel is his word ; for surely God does not use his almighty power to promote a mere imposture and delusion.
4. This success is agreeable to what Christ and his apostles foretold........Matth. xvi. 18. “Upon this rock will I build my church : And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” John xii. 24. “ Verily verily I say unto you, except a corn of
I wheat fall into the ground, and die, it abideth alone : But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” And vers. 31, 32. “ Now is the judgment of this world : “ Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” John xvi. 8. “ When he (the comforter) is come, he will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.....because the prince of this world is judged."
So the apostle Paul, in 1 Cor. chap. i. 21. 28, declares, how that after the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe ; and that God chose the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise ;: and weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, yea and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are........ If any man foretells a thing, very likely in itself to come to pass, from causes which can be foreseen, it is no great argument of a revelation from God : But when a thing is foretold which is very unlikely ever to come to pass, is entirely contrary to the common course of things, and yet it does come to pass just agreeable to the prediction, this is a strong argument that the prediction was from God.
Thus the consideration of the manner of the propagation and success of the gospel during the time which has been spoken of, affords great evidence that the scriptures are the word of God.
III. I AM now to show how the success of Christ's redemption is carried on from the time of the overthrow of the Heathen Roman empire in the time of Constantine the Great, till the fall of Antichrist, and the destruction of Satans's visi. ble kingdom on earth, which is the third great dispensation which is in scripture compared to Christ's coming to judge ment. This is a period wherein many great and wonderful things are brought to pass. Herein is contained a long series of wonders of divine providence towards the Christian church. The greater part of the book of Revelation is taken up in foretelling the events of this period.
The success of Christ's purchase of redemption in this period, appears mainly at the close of it, when Antichrist comes to fall, when there will be a far more glorious success of the gospel than ever was before ; and that long series of events which are before, seem to be only to prepare the
for it. And in order to a more clear view of the great works of God in accomplishing the success of Christ's redemption, and our seeing the glory of them, it will be necessary, as we have done in the foregoing periods, to consider not only the success itself, but the opposition made to it, and the great works of Satan in this period against the church and kingdom of Christ : And therefore, in taking a view of this period, I would take notice of events which may be referred to either of these heads, viz. either to the head of Satan's opposition to the success of Christ's redemption, or to the head of the success of Christ's ' redemption : And for the more orderly consideration of the events of this period, I would divide it into these four parts : The first reaching from the destruction of the Heathen empire to the rise of Antichrist ; the second, from the rise of Antichrist to the reformation in Luther's time ; the third, from thence to the present time ; the fourth, from the present time, till Antichrist is fallen, and Satan's visible kingdom on earth is destroyed. 1st. I would consider the events of the first
part riod, reaching from the destruction of the Heathen empire to the rise of Antichrist. And here, first, I would take notice of the opposition Satan made in this space of time to the VOL. II.
of this pe
church : And, secondly, the success that the gospel bad in it.
1. The opposition. Satan being cast out of his old Heathen empire, the great red dragon, after so sore a conflict with Michael and his angels, for the greater part of three hundred years, being at last entirely routed and vanquished, so that no place was found any more in heaven for him, but he was cast down, as it were from heaven to the earth ; yet does not give over his opposition to the woman, the church of Christ, concerning which all this conflict had been. But he is still in a rage, and renews his attempts, and has recourse to new devices against the church. The serpent, after he is cast out of beaven to the earth, casts out of his mouth water as a flood, to cause the woman to be carried away of the flood. The opposition that he made to the church of Christ before the rise of Antichrist, was principally of two sorts. It was either by corrupting the church of Christ with heresies, or by new endeava ors to restore Paganism.
(1) I would observe, that after the destruction of the Heathen Roman empire, Satan infested the church with heresies. Though there had been so glorious a work of God in delivering the church from her Heathen persecutors, and overthrowing the Heathen empire ; yet the days of the church's travail not being ended, and the set time of her prosperity not being yet come, as being what was to succeed the fall of Antichrist, therefore the peace and prosperity which the church enjoyed in Constantine’s time, was but very short : It was a respite, which gave the church a time of peace and silence, as it were for half an hour, wherein the four angels held the four winds from blowing, till the servants of God should be sealed in their foreheads. But the church soon began to be greatly infested with heresies ; the two principal, and those which did most infest the church, were the Arian and Pelagian heresies.
The Arians began soon after Constantine came to the throne. They denied the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ and the Holy Ghost, and maintained, that they were but mere creatures. This heresy increased more and