Page images
PDF
EPUB

ven, crying out, “ Thou hast overcome, O Galilean.' He is commonly thought by divines to have committed the unpardonable sin. Another

way that Satan attempted to restore Paganism in the Roman empire, was by the invasions and conquests of heathen nations. For in this space of time the Goths and Vandals, and other barbarous nations from the north, invaded the empire, and obtained great conquests. They even overran the empire, and in the fifth century took the city of Rome, and finally conquered and took possession of the western half of the empire, and divided it among them. It was divided into ten kingdoms, with which began the ten horns of the beast ; for we are told, that the ten horns are ten kings, who should rise in the latter part of the Roman empire : these are also represented by the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar's image. The invasion and conquests of these heathen nations are supposed to be foretold in the 8th chapter of Revelation, in what came to pass under the sounding of the four first trumpets. Now by their means Heathenism was again for a while restored after it had been rooted out.

II. I proceed to show what success the Gospel had in this space, notwithstanding this opposition.

1. I would observe that the opposition of Satan in those things was baffled. Though the dragon cast out of his mouth such a flood after the woman to carry her away, yet he could not obtain his design; but the earth helped the woman, and opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. These heresies, which for a time so much prevailed, after a whilo dwindled away, and orthodoxy was again restored. 2. The Gospel, during this space of time, was further propagated among many barbarous heathen nations in the confines of the Roman empire. In the time of Constantine there was a considerable propagation of the Gospel in the East Indies, chiefly by the ministry of one Frumentius. Great numbers of the Iberians were converted to Christianity by a christian woman of eminent piety whom they had taken captive. And some account is given of several other barbarous nations who were not within the Roman empire, that great numbers of them were brought to receive the Gospel by the teaching and example of captives whom they had taken in war. About the

year

of Christ 372, the Gospel was propagated among the barbarous inhabitants of Arabia ; and among some of the northern nations; particularly a prince of the Goths about this time became Christian, and a great number of his people with him. Towards the latter part of this century, the Gospel was also further propagated among the Persians; and among the Scythians, a barbarous people, whom the apostle mentions. Col. 3 : 11. “Barbarian, Scythian," &c.

And after this, about the year 430, was a remarkable conversion of the Burgundians to the christian faith. Now the Gospel began to be propagated in Ireland; and the Irish, who till now had been Heathen, began to receive the christian faith. Aboui the same time it was further propagated among some barbarous people in Scotland, and in some other places. In the next century, Zathus, a Heathen king, who ruled over the Colchians, was brought to renounce his Heathenism, and to embrace the christian religion. Several other barbarous nations

are recorded to have renounced Heathenism and embraced Christianity about this time, that I cannot now mention.

CHAPTER IV.

FROM THE RISE OF ANTICHRIST TO THE

REFORMATION.

I come now to the darkest and most dismal day the christian church ever saw, and probably the darkest that ever it will see—from the rise of Antichrist till the Reformation by. Luther and others. The true church in this space was for many hundred

years in a state of great obscurity: like the woman in the wilderness, she was almost hid from sight and observation. In speaking of the events of this space of time, I would notice, 1. The great machinations and works of Satan against the kingdom of Christ; 2. How the church of Christ was upheld.

1. The great machinations and works of Satan against the kingdom of Christ during this time. Satan had done great things against the christian

ch before, but had been baffled once and again. Michael and his angels had obtained a glorious victory. How terrible was his opposition during the continuance of the Heathen empire; and how glo rious was Christ's victory and triumph over him in the time of Constantine ! It pleased God now to prepare the way for a yet more glorious victory over him; he is suffered to renew his strength, and to do the utmost that, his power and subtilty can effect. He has a long time to lay his schemes, to establish his interest, and make his matters strong. God suffers him to carry his designs a great length indeed, almost to the swallowing up of his church; and to exercise a high, proud, and almost uncontrolled dominion in the world a long time, before Christ final. ly conquers, and utterly ruins his visible kingdom. This he will do in the time of the destruction of Antichrist: thus gloriously triumphing over Satan, after he has done to the utmost of his power and subtilty; after he has lified himself highest of all, and dealt most proudly. The two great works of the devil, in this

space

of time, against the kingdom of Christ, are his creating his Antichristian and Mohammedan kingdoms; which both together comprehend the ancient Roman empire; the kingdom of Antichrist the western, and the Mohammedan kingdom the eastern empire. As the Scriptures in the book of Revelation represent it

, it is in the destruction of these that the glorious victory of Christ, at the introduction of the glorious times of the church, will mainly consist. And here iet us briefly observe how Satan erects and maintains these two great kingdoms of his in opposition to the kingdom of Christ.

1. With respect to the kingdom of Antichrist. This seems to be the masterpiece of all the contrivances of the devil against the kingdom of Christ, and is evidently so spoken of in Scripture. Antichrist is that man of sin, 2 Thess. 2 : 3, emphatically, as though he were so eminently. He is called Antichrist, which signifies the opponent or adverRedemption

28

sary of Christ, not because he is the only opponent of Christ; for the apostle John observes, that in his days there were many Antichrists; but this is called the Antichrist, as though there were none but he, because he was so eminently, and above all others. So this contrivance of the devil is called the mystery of iniquity. 2 Thess. 2: 7. We find no enemy of Christ one half so much spoken of in the prophecies of Revelation as this; and the destruction of no enemy is spoken of as so glorious, and so happy for the church.

This is a contrivance to turn the ministry of the christian church into a ministry of the devil, and the angels of the churches into fallen angels. In the tyranny, superstition, idolatry, and persecution, which he sets up, he contrives to make an image of ancient Paganism, and more than to restore what was lost by the overthrow of Paganism in the time of Con stantine. By these means, the head of the beast, which was wounded unto death in Constantine, has his deadly wound healed in Antichrist. Rev. 13:3. And the dragon, that formerly reigned in the Heathen Roman empire, being cast out thence, after the beast with seven heads and ten horns rises up out of the sea, gives him his power, and seat, and great authority; and all the world wonders after the beast.

I am far from pretending to determine the time when the reign of Antichrist began, which is a point that has been so much controverted among divines and expositors. It is certain that the twelve hundred and sixty days, or years, which are so often in Scripture mentioned as the time of the continuance of Antichrist's reign, did not commence before the year of Christ four hundred and seventy-nine; because if they did, they would have ended, and Anti

« PreviousContinue »