Page images
PDF
EPUB

.

induced to put their necks under the yoke: and par. ticularly a great part of the churches in England, Scotland, and France retained the ancient purity of doctrine and worship much longer than many others who were nearer the chief seat of Antichrist.

2. In every age of this dark time there appeared particular persons in all parts of Christendom, who bore a testimony against the corruptions and tyranny of the church of Rome. There is no age of Antichrist, even in the darkest tiines, but ecclesiastical historians mention many by name who manifested an abhorrence of the Pope and his idolatrous worship, and pleaded for the ancient purity of doctrine and worship. God was pleased to maintain an uninterrupted succession of many witnesses through the whole time, in Germany, France, Britain, and other countries; private persons and ministers, some magistrates and persons of great distinction. And there were numbers in every age who were persecuted and put to death for this testimony.

3. Besides these various individuals, there was a people called the Waldenses, who lived separate from all the rest of the world, and constantly bore a testimony against the church of Rome through all this dark time.

The place where they dwelt was the Vaudois, or the five valleys of Piedmont, a very mountainous country between Italy and France; it was compassed about with those exceeding high mountains the Alps, which were almost impassable, and therefore the valleys were almost inaccessible. ple lived for many ages, in a state of separation from all the world, having very little to do with any other people. And there they served God in the

There this peo

ancient purity of his worship, and never submitted to the church of Rome. This probably was the place especially meant, Rev. 12:6, as prepared of God for the woman, that they should feed her there during the reign of Antichrist.

Some of the popish writers themselves own that this people never submitted to the church of Rome. One of the popish writers, speaking of the Waldenses, says, the heresy of the Waldenses is the oldest heresy in the world. It is supposed that they first betook themselves to this place among the mountains, to hide themselves from the severity of the Heathen persecutions which existed before Constantine the Great. And thus the woman fled into the wilderness from the face of the serpent. Rev. 12 : 6, 14.

And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place: where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." The people being settled there, their posterity continued there from age to age: and being, as it were, by natural walls, as well as hy God's grace, separated from the rest of the world, they never partook of the overflowing corruption.

These especially were those virgins who were not defiled, when other churches prostituted them. selves; but they kept themselves pure for Christ alone. They followed the Lamb, their spiritual husband, whithersoever he went: they followed him into this hideous wilderness. Rev. 14: 4,5. Their doctrine and worship appear to be the saine with the protestant doctrine and worship; and by the confession of popish writers, they were a people remarkable for the strictness of their lives, for charity and other christian virtues. They lived in external poverty in this hideous country; but they chose this rather than comply with the great corruptions of the rest of the world.

Living in so secret a place, it was a long time before they were noticed. But at last, falling under observation, the Romanists went out in mighty armies against them, fell upon them with insatiable cruelty, barbarously massacreing and putting to death men, women, and children, with all imaginable tortures. Their enemies continued persecuting them with but little intermission for several hundred years; by which means many were driven out of the valleys of Piedmont. These filed into all parts of Europe, carrying with them their doctrine, to which many were brought over. Their persecutors could not by all their cruelties extirpate the church of God; so fulfilling his word, that "the gates of hell should not prevail against it.”

4. Towards the latter part of this dark time several noted divines openly appeared to defend the truth, and bear testimony against the corruptions of the church of Rome. The first and principal of these was John Wickliff, an English divine, who appeared about one hundred and forty years before the Reformation; he strenuously opposed the popish religion, taught the same doctrine that the Reformers afterwards did, and had many followers in England. He was hotly persecuted in his lifetime, yet died in peace; but after he was buried, his bones were dug up by his persecutors and burnt. His followers remained in considerable numbers in England till the Reformation: they were cruelly persecuted, and multitudes were put to death for their religion.

1

Wickliff had many disciples, not only in England, but in other parts of Europe, whither his books were carried; and particularly in Bohemia, among whom were two eminent divines, John Huss and Jerome, a divine of Prague, the chief city of Bohemia. These strenuously opposed the church of Rome, and had many who adhered to them. They were both burnt by the Papists for their doctrine; and their followers in Bohemia were cruelly persecuted, but never extirpated till the Reformation.

CHAPTER V.

FROM THE REFORMATION TO THE PRESENT TIME.

Thus having gone through the dark time of the church, I come now to consider that part which begins with the Reformation, and reaches to the present time. And here I would notice, 1. The Reformation itself; 2. The opposition which the devil has made to the reformed church; 3. The recent success of the Gospel in one place and another; 4. What the state of things is now in the world with regard to the church of Christ, and the success of his purchase.

1. The Reformation itself. This was begun in Germany, about the year 1515, by the preaching of Martin Luther, who being stirred in his spirit to see the horrid practices of the popish clergy, and having set himself diligently to inquire after truth by the study of the holy Scriptures, and the writings of the ancient fathers of the church, very openly and boldly decried the corruptions and usurpations of the Romish church in his preaching and writings. He had soon a great number who agreed with him; among whom was the Elector of Saxony, the sovereign prince of the country to which he belonged. This greatly alarmed the church of Rome, which rallied all its force to oppose him and his doctrine, and raised fierce wars and persecutions against him. But yet the truth spread by means of the labors of Luther and Melancthon in Germany, Zuinglius in Switzerland, and other eminent divines, who were cotemporary with Luther, particularly Calvin, who appeared after the beginning of the Reformation, but was one of the most eminent Reformers.

Many of the princes of Germany' soon received the reformed religion, and many other states and kingdoms in Europe, as England, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, great part of France, Poland, Lithuania, Switzerland, and the Low Countries. So that it is thought that at one time about half Christendom were of the Protestant religion; though since, the Papists have gained ground: so that ihe Protestants now have not so great a proportion.

Thus God began gloriously to revive his church again, and advance the kingdom of his Son, after such a dismal night of darkness from the rise of Antichrist to that time. There had been many endeavors used by the witnesses for the truth for a reformation before. But now when God's appointed time was come, his work went on with a swift and

« PreviousContinue »