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Finally : You admit, I suppose, that though we should err in believing Jesus to be the Messiah ; yet, while we deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world ; it is an error that may not affect our eternal salvation : but if the error be on your side, on what ground do you stand ? Your fathers, in this case, were murderers of the Prince of Life ; and by adopting their principles, you make the deed your own. His blood lies upon you, and upon your children. The terrible destruction of your city by the Romans, and the hardness of heart to which you have been given up, are symptoms of that wrath which is come upon you to the uttermost. Repent and believe the gospel, that you may escape the wrath to come!
It is witnessed of David, that he served the will of God in his generation. Every generation bas its peculiar work. The present age is distinguished, you know by the progress of infidelity. We have long been exempted from persecution ; and he whose fan is in his hand, perceiving his floor to stand in need of purging, seems determined by new trials to purge it. The present is a winnowing time. If we wish to serve the will of God in it, we must carefully attend to those duties which such a state of things imposes upon us.
In the first place, Let us look well to the sincerity of our hearts ; and see to it, that our Christiunity is vital, practical, and decided. An army called to engage after a long peace, requires to be examined, and every one should examine himself. Many become soldiers when danger is at a distance. The mighty host of Midianites were overcome by a select band. A proclamation was issued through the army of Israel, “Whosoever is fearful and afraid,
let bim return :" and after a great diminution from cowardice, the rest must be brought down to the water to be tried. Such, or near. ly such, may be the trials of the church : those who overcome, may be reduced to a small company in comparison of those who have borne the Christian name. So indeed the scriptures inform us. They that obtain the victory with Christ are called, and chosen, and faithful.*
The manner in which things of late ages have moved on in the religious world, has been such as to admit of a large outer court, if I may so speak, for a sort of balf-worshippers. A general religious reputation has been hitherto obtained at a small expense. But should infidelity prevail throughout Christendom, as it has in France, the nominal extent of the Christian church has been greatly reduced. In taking its dimensions, the outer-court will, as it were, be left out, and given to the Gentiles. In this case, you must come in or keep out ; be one thing or another ; a decided friend of Christ or an avowed Infidel. It is possible, that the time may come when all parties will be reduced, in effect, to two-believers and unbelievers.
“Never," says a late masterly and moving writer, “ were times more eventful and critical, than at present ; never were appearances more singular and interesting in the political. or in the religious world. You behold on the one hand, infidelity with dreadful irruption, extending its ravages far and wide ; and on the other, an amassing accession of zeal and activity to the cause of Christianity. Error in all its forms is assiduously and successfully propagated ; but the progress of evangelical truth is also great. The number of the apparently neutral party daily diminishes ; and men are now either becoming worshippers of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, or receding fast through the mists of scepticism into the dreary regions of speculative and practical atheism. It seems as if Christianity and Infidelity were mustering each the hosts of the battle, and preparing for some great day of God. The enemy is come in like a flood : but the spirit of the Lord hath lifted up a standard against him. Who, then, is
Rev. xvii. 14.
on the Lord's side? Who ?-Let him come forth to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty !"*
Secondly: Let a good understanding be cultivated among sincere Christians of different denominations. Let the friends of Christ know one another; and let not slighter shades of difference keep them at variance. The enemies of Christianity know how to avail themselves of our discords. The union wbich is here recommended, however, is not a merely nominal one, much less one that requires a sacrifice of principle. Let us unite so far as we can act in concert, in promoting the interest of Christ; and hold ourselves, open to conviction with regard to other things. Let not the free discussion of our differences be laid aside, or any such connexion formed as shall require it: only let them be conducted with modesty, frankness, and candour, and the godly will find their account in them. Let it be the great concern of all, not so much to maintain their own peculiarities, as to know and practice the truth; not so much to yield, and come nearer to other denominations, as to approximate towards the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ, as expressed in his doctrines and precepts, must be the central point in which we meet: as we approach this, we shall come nearer to each other. So much agreement as there is among us, so much is there of union, and so much agreement as there is in the mind of Christ, so much of Christian union.
Finally: Let not the heart of any man fail him, on account of the high tone and scornful airs assumed by Infidels. The reign of infidelity may be extensive, but it must be short. It carries in it the seeds of its own dissolution. Its immoralities are such, that the world cannot long sustain them. Scripture prophecy has clearly foretold all the great governments of the world, from the time of
Captivity to this day-the Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian and Roman; together with the ten kingdoms into which the last of these empires has been divided, and the Papal government which sprung up among them; but it makes no explicit mention of this. It has no individual subsistence given it in the system of prophecy. It is not a beast, but a mere putrid excrescence of the Papal beast; an excrescence which, though it may diffuse death through every vein of the body on which it grew, yet shall die along with it. The beast, and all which pertains to him, goeth into perdition.* There is no space of time allowed for this government: no sooner is it said, Babylon is fallen, than voices are heard in heaven, declaring that the marriage of the Lamb is come. No sooner does the judgment sit, to take away the dominion of the little horn, to consume and to destroy it unto the end, than it follows, And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.t
* Ferrier's Two Discourses at Paisley, in June, 1798.
Popery is not yet destroyed, though it has received a deadly blow; and from what is said of the little horn, that they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end, it should seem that its overthrow will be gradual. While this is accomplishing, the reign of infidelity may continue, with various success; but no longer. Only let us watch and keep our garments clean, (a caution given, it is probable, with immediate reference to the present times,) and we have nothing to fear. It is a source of great consolation that the last of the four beasts, which for more than two thousand years have persecuted the church, and oppressed mankind, is drawing near to its end. The government that shall next prevail will be that of Christ, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Even so, Amen. Blessed be his glorious name forever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen!
* Rev. xvii. 8, 11. + Dan. vii. 26, 27. The writer has since read a very able discourse by Mr. Nathan Strong, of Hartford, Connecticut, entitled, Political Instruction from the Prophecies of God's Word: in which the above sentiments are stated with great force and evidence.