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CONSUMMATION OF THE FINAL APOSTACY.
CHARACTER AND SIGNS OF THE TIMES- FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY
APOSTACY -SECOND EPISTLE OF ST. PETER-EPISTLE OF ST. JUDE
QUOTATION FROM THE REV. E. BICKERSTETH.
It is fit that we should contemplate the advance of that final apostacy which shall precede the second coming of our Lord: when he shall destroy the nation or nations, the powers and principles, of the dominion of Antichrist, and establish his kingdom. It is true that the several symptoms of this evil have been observed, and their consequences predicted, each in their very first rise ; and now that the symptoms have made progress, and taken hold of the system, we notice them but little, and think that as we still exist, when the disease is ten-fold greater, that all these must have been bad physicians and false prophets, and that our safety and freedom from death is demonstrated by the length of life which we have lived, and by experience. It is those who have enjoyed the greatest and the most even health, who are the most alarmed at the first appearances of illness; and it is impossible, as I have shown,* for the
public mind, and most difficult for any individual, to perceive the mischief of those habits and symptoms which are become a part of the system and constitution.
It must also be admitted, that great advances towards an improvement in religious activity, and liberal contribution to sacred objects, have to be admired of late years. But independent of the much more rapid and extensive increase of its opposites, so that it must be looked upon rather as a defensive than an aggressive movement, -I fear that, like the greatest and most perfect of all reformations in the Hebrew commonwealth, wherewith Josiah purified it more than it ever had been made pure, this present revulsion is only a prelude to like utter and irretrievable disasters to those which came upon
the Jews and Jerusalem for their still ever increasing and overflowing rebellions.
It is the marked feature of these, as it is to be of the last times, that many run to and fro, and knowledge is increased. These distinctions have characterized the whole of the last three centuries, but does it not at this time look like a consummation ?
Almost all the nations of the world are inwardly convulsed and disorganized, and fermenting with a political uneasiness and discontent, and longing after repeated changes upon changes, towards they know not what.-Kings are ashamed and confounded, and thrones and governments are shaken and vacated, and they that sit in them are ready to hide themselves from the storm which is gathering over them, and the pitiless wrath. The largest armies that ever existed are collected together and maintained, by way of peace establishments, and for defence; and are ready and eager to engage, and can hardly be restrained from engaging in war, with the most murderous weapons that ever were invented, for no one worthy or important or assignable object, at a time when it is universally pretended to be confessed, that war must bring to all disaster, and to no one profit.
The churches in all countries, nationally speaking, must be considered to be going to pieces. The spoliation of church property is becoming the object and practice everywhere,—in Spain, in Switzerland, in Rome, in Ireland, in England. The clergy are looked upon with doubt and apprehension by the government:--in most countries they are despised; in England too they are hated.* Men pay tithes more cheerfully to the lay-impropriators than
* Germany, &c. by Gleig, vol. i. pp. 102, 110, et seq. Prussia.
"The archbishop, being at the head of the priesthood, he was, as a matter of course, the most obnoxious person in Paris. The French don't like priests.”—Unit. Serv. Journ. 1830, p.
546. " It is the peculiar feature in the Popish-Protestant Church of England, that its tithe-fed priests and their country flocks are in harmony only when mischief and injustice to the community are to be perpetrated. If we wanted proof that a law was bad, we should require nothing better than the fact that a grasping and overpaid priesthood zealously supported it.”- English Newspaper.
A magistrate of character and influence complained at a meeting of gentlemen on public business, speaking the sentiments of those with whom he acted, that the clergy, as a body, opposed and prevented every improvement in his county.
These expressions were current two or three years since, though they are not the fashion of the present season. It is not the fact of such expressions being used by individuals which indicates the temper of the times, but their being used publicly, at this period, when public men accommodate themselves so habitually to the prevailing fashion and opinion.
to the clergyman:- it is the very name of tithes which is hated.* Infidelity prevails in Roman Catholic countries; dissent, and free-thinking bordering upon Deism, in the Protestant states. Colonies and nations are peopled, without a provision being made by government for the support of churches or clergy:--even the slight assistance which was formerly given to this object, is either withdrawn or diminished.+ If it is truly reported, in Nova Scotia, each clergyman has in his charge a district averaging in extent 446 square miles :-in the island of Cape Breton, in the same colony, the length of which is 100 miles and the breadth 80, and the population 30,000, there are only two clergymen. I In Australia things are rather worse than better. In Norfolk Island there is not one single clergyman of the Church of England. Five years ago, there were in the whole colony not more than eight acting and efficient clergymen.|| It is charged against the English by every Mahometan and idolater with whom they come in contact, that they have no religion; and this charge is mostly warranted and justified, inasmuch as they have been as wanting in moral conduct and practice as in outward religious observance.
Another marked and expressive feature is the sufferings and distresses, and the heartless oppressions of the poor. This is the certain characteristic of an over
* House of Commons Debate, June 25, 1839; Educational Grant.
† The clergy reserves in Canada. The annual grant to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.
I Colonial Church Record ; Ap. Soc. Gaz. No. 3, § Speech of Rev. A. M. Campbell, at Bath, Jan. 31, 1839. || Ibid. The town of Sydney alone contains 16,000 free inhabitants.
In addition to and in corroboration of what I have elsewhere said
grown, effete, and rapidly declining state.
It was so in Rome, Athens, and Judæa ; and in the last case it is expressly named as one among the chief causes of the judgments which were denounced upon that heavily afflicted nation.* The classes of society are no longer held together by any personal attachment or kindness, or affectionate intercourse. The only bond which attaches men together is party and opposition. They are united in offensive and defensive warfare. Thus it is a union of disunion. It is the friendship of a common hatred : the association of division: the concord of discord : the aggregation of repulsion. The ancient bands and obligations are dissolved; the former duties and principles are denied ; and new rights and powers and self-formed governments are erected, in religion, in morals, and in politics. All are equally characterized by an intensity of conceit, independence, and enmity:--the mark by which Christians are especially characterized is hatred and selfishness. It seems to be true, as it has been said, that “the demons of infidelity, blasphemy, confusion and sedition, are busy in their dark deeds, and would gladly overturn all that makes life happy in church and state.”
Examples of the triumph of reason over religion, of the rights of man over the rights of God, are furnished by the recent marriage and registration acts. By the respecting the harsh feelings towards the poor, a Cabinet minister is reported to have made this answer, when it was asserted in the House of Commons that the poor were fed no better than dogs—" If it were so,” he said, “their masters pay for their dogs' food, but these do not pay anything for what they have to eat.”
* Isai. iii. 14, 15; x. 2; Jer. v. 28; xxii. 3, 5, 13, 17; Mi. iii. 3. † Marriott’s Serm. i. 258 ; “Thy kingdom come.”