The Watchman's Answer, &c.
ISAIAH xxi. 11, 12.
The Burden of DUMAH. He calleth to me out of SEIR, Watchman, What of the Night? Watch∣man, What of the Night? The Watchman said, The Morning cometh, and also the Night: if ye will enquire; enquire, ye; return; come.
IT may doubtless, at first View, appear strange to my Brethren, that I have chosen this obscure Pas∣sage of sacred Writ for your Entertainment; when it might be expected, that the Dignity & Duties; the Comforts & Trials of the ministerial Office should be explained, or the best Method of securing good Disci∣pline and sound Doctrine in the Church, laid open. These Subjects, I confess, are highly proper to be insisted on, and should generally be the Topics of our Discourse, on such Occasions as these. But, some dark Apprehensions, as to the Times into which we are fallen, turned my Mind to this Subject: And as it will lead our Thoughts to the present Dangers & Trials; to the farther Prospects and Hopes relating to the Church of CHRIST, it will, I ima∣gine, when properly explained and applied, be tho't not unsuitable for those, who are assembled to consult its Wel∣fare and Prosperity.
WHAT I shall attempt, is,
Page 4I. To explain the Words, and illustrate the Prophesy, by such historical Events, as seem to point out the Fulfil∣ment of it, in its primary View.
II. Apply it to the State of the Church in general, and to the Times into which we are fallen, in particular▪
THIS enigmatical Prophesy, seems in its primary View, to denote some further Calamity on the Idumeans, after the Jews should be delivered from the Darkness they were then under; that while the Morning arose to the one, the Night should be continued to the other. It is called the Burden of Dumah, because it brings sad and dark Tidings, what would prove an heavy Burden, hard to be born. Dumah here, by a Contraction not unusual in the sacred Writings, seems evidently to be put for E∣dom; and so for the Country Idumea, where the Edomites dwelt. This appears plain, by Seir's being mentioned as the Place from whence the Voice came, which was that mountainous Part of Idumea, that lay next to the Land of Canaan. The Septuagint therefore well translate it, To' Horamatees Idumais, i.e. the Vision of Idumea. In this prophetic Scene, there is one from that Country in∣troduced, as addressing the Prophet in great Earnestness, about the State of the Night, or that State of Affliction and Oppression, which both the Jews and Idumeans were under. He calleth (or there is one that calleth, or crieth) to me out of Seir. The Word must be taken collectively, not denoting a particular Person, q.d. there is a Cry, or the Voice of those that cry from that Country; this ap∣pears from the Answer of the Prophet, If ye will enquire, &c. 'Tis observed that the original Word Karah, has an Emphasis in it, & denotes the Cry of Men in Anguish and Distress, impatiently waiting to see the End of their Cala∣mity, and the Dawn of the Morning of their Deliverance. This shews a Beauty in the scenical Representation; as the Prophet is on the Watch-Tower among the Jews, at a great Distance from Mount Seir, the Voice must be loud, in order to be heard. The Question follows,
IT may perhaps seem strange at first View, that the Idu∣means should make this Inquiry. What had they to do with the Prophets or the divine Oracles?† Who were Aliens from the Common-Wealth of Israel, & Strangers from the Covenant of Promise.—But, the Difficulty will vanish, if we consider that the Scheme of this Prophesy is emblematical and figurative. The Idumeans are in∣troduced here by the Prophet, as breathing after Deli∣verance under their Calamities, and making such anxious Inquiries as it is natural to suppose a People in their Situ∣ation would; and hearing that Deliverance was expected by the Jewish Nation, it was natural for them to desire to know the Time and Manner of it, in Hopes they also might Share in its Favour.—To this may be added— That the eastern Nations had a Veneration for the Pro∣phets of the GOD of Israel, whose Fame was spread a∣mong them. And if we apply it to the then dark State of the Church, an Enquiry respecting a more glorious Dispensation, in which themselves, & all the Gentile World were concerned, comes from them with singular Propriety. Some suppose the Question put by way of Derision, but I think without Foundation; had that been the Case, the Prophet would have given them a very different Answer. They seem to have a Degree of Earnestness about the Page 7 Matter, and yet do not enquire with that Faith, and such religious Views as they ought. This is evident from the Prophets reply. The Morning cometh, and also the Night, if ye will enquire; enquire ye; return; come. i.e. The Morning will be as dangerous as the Night, say some. Others translate it, the Morning cometh, & yet it is Night. i.e. Tho' there be a Deliverance from present Calamities, yet it will be but partial; Light comes, but Darkness will be intermixed with it; or according to our Transla∣tion, The Morning cometh, but the Night will soon succeed. It may mean, That tho' the Morning is coming to the People of GOD, it would still be Night with the Idumeans. 'Tis easy to see, that as Night is put for a State of Affliction, Day is a proper Emblem of Joy and Comfort. If ye will enquire; enquire, ye; return; come. The old English Translation under Henry the VIIIth, has it thus,
AS the Question, tho' not put with that Seriousness and Sincerity as it ought, implied a Desire to know the Pur∣pose of GOD relating to their present dark & dismal Situ∣ation; the Answer seems to be to this Purpose, viz. Since you Idumeans, in your distressed Condition, seem to come to your selves, express a Desire of returning to GOD, and knowing his Will concerning you, be in earnest in the Matter, enquire with Hearts suitably affected, with the Dispensations of divine Providence, with sincere Desires to know and comply with your Duty. Return to the God of Israel, come into the Bosom & Communion of the Church; since you are descended from Abraham, shew your selves to be his Children indeed; come with Sincerity & Faith, to me and the other Prophets, to know the Mind & Will of GOD, and be suitably prepared to meet him, when he shall come forth against you. The Sum of what I have said is this: The neighbouring Nations, groaning under Page 8 the same Oppression from the Assyrian and Babylonish Princes, as the Jews were, tho' the peculiar People of GOD, and favoured with his true Prophets; the Idumeans are introduced, enquiring after the Duration, and End of this common Calamity in too careless a Manner, with too little Reverence or religious Sense of the Divine Dispensation. They have for Answer, That the Morn∣ing was coming, i. e. Light and Liberty to the Jews; but that the Night still awaited them; i.e. their present Afflictions and spiritual Darkness, would continue, while they maintain'd their present Temper of Mind towards GOD, and remained Strangers to the Common-Wealth of Israel. He therefore exhorts them to return to GOD, and enquire with a religious Disposition, and right Views about this Matter.
THIS Interpretation may be illustrated by historical Events; either by referring it to the common Calamities that befel the Jews and Idumeans, with other neighbour∣ing Nations, under Senacherib King of Assyria; or to that which afterwards befel them under the Kings of Ba∣bylon. If to the former, the Morning that arose to the Jews, must be the miraculous Deliverance granted them, by the terrible Destruction of the Assyrian Army by an Angel.‖ The like Deliverance not being granted to the Idumeans, with them it remained Night. But, I rather suppose it may refer to the Babylonish Captivity, which involved the Jews and Idumeans in one common Night of Calamity and Distress, after which long Night, where∣in the Church seemed as it were buried, a glorious Morn∣ing arose to the Jews, from the Deliverance granted by Cyrus; while the Idumeans continued in Darkness; as appears by Malachi, who lived after the Return of the Jews from the Babylonish Captivity; and describes the Idumeans as impoverished, unable to return and rebuild their waste Places; being under the peculiar Displeasure of Heaven. * _____ We come now,
Page 9II. To another View in which this prophetic Descrip∣tion may be taken, and with Propriety applied to some remarkable Periods in the Church.
AS the Prophets were set as Watchmen, on the Walls of God's Jerusalem, to publish his Designs of Mercy and Judgment to the Church and the World; such as were concerned to know the Times & Seasons of God's favour∣ing his Zion, would naturally enquire at their Mouths, and as the Idumeans sprang originally from the same Family with the Jews, and bordered upon them, they had doubt∣less some Acquaintance with their sacred Writings. Some Prophecies had a particular Reference to them. It was foretold, that Edom should be a Possession, and Seir a Pos∣session of their Enemies.* It is natural therefore to sup∣pose, that the more tho'tful among them, were looking for this Period, and being oppressed with Difficulties, were excited to enquire after the Time when they should be delivered from their spiritual Darkness, and united to the People of God. This Prophesy of Edom's being a Possession of their Enemies, was in Part accomplished under the As∣monean Family, when the Edomites were subdued by the Jews, many of them bro't to embrace their Religion, and their Country became their Possession. To this Time, the Prophet may have a View, when 'tis supposed they would not neglect the sacred Writings, but get some Acquaintance with those Prophesies, wherein grorious Things were spoken of Zion, when the present dark and gloomy Dispensation should be at an end, and the Gentiles partake of the same Privileges with the Jews. This must excite in all who had any due Esteem for spiri∣tual Blessings, a Desire to be informed when the happy Aera would arrive. In this View, the Question, the Answer of the Watchman, his Admonition, to return and continue their Enquirers with more Seriousness and better Views, all appear natural and proper.
Page 10BY the Night, we may understand the obscure Dis∣pensation they were then under, which was ushered in with Blackness, Darkness, and a thick Tempest. It is therefore called a Ministration of Death, and Condem∣nation, and proved so to the carnal Jews, who rested in the Law graven on Stones, not looking to him who was the End of it for Righteousness to all that believe.
THAT Ministration was indeed glorious, as it refered to, and pointed out the Glories of the Gospel; but how divinely glorious soever it was in itself, yet in Respect to the transcending Glory of that Dispensation of Light and Grace, which it shadowed forth, it might be said to have no Glory; the Lustre of it was swallowed up by the surpassing Glory of the Gospel, as the dim Light of the Moon and twinkling Stars, vanishes before the rising Sun. This Dispensation was not only gloomy and dark, when compared to the superior Light of the Christian Revelation, but was in a peculiar Manner so, by Reason of the Blindness, Prejudices and Unbelief, of those to whom it was given; which is fitly represented by the Vail Moses put on his Face while he delivered them the Law, to cover its dazzling Brightness, which they could not behold. This Vail the Apostle expresly tell us, was on their Hearts,*so that they could not look to the End of that which was to be abolished. They were as un∣able to behold the Mind of Moses in that Oeconomy, as they were his Face; when he turned to the Lord he took off the Vail; which implies, that that Dispensa∣tion, as it came from God, and was revealed to him, was full of Grace, and shone with a divine Lustre; but when he conversed with the People he had it on, for the internal Glories of his Ministration which were delivered in Types and Figures of good Things to come, were ren∣der'd obscure and dark, by the Blindness & Prejudices of their carnal Hearts When they shall turn to the Lord, at the blessed Period of their general Conversion, this VailPage 11 shall be taken away, and they shall clearly see how the glorious Grace of the Gospel was revealed under all the Types and Shadows of the Law. But, by Reason of the Darkness of their Minds, and the obscure Manner in which Christ, and the Blessings of his Kingdom, were then tipified, the Church continued in a dark & benighted State. There was indeed a Mixture of Light with that Darkness; the Prophets were like so many shining Stars in the Church, and they had many sure Words of Prophesy, to which they might give Heed; but it was only as to a Light shining in a dark Place, till the Day-star appeared, and the glorious Sun of Righteousness arose.
AND 'tis worthy Observation, that the Night was pe∣culiarly gloomy, towards the Close of this Dispensation, when the Darkness was much increased, by almost con∣tinual Persecutions and Oppressions, from the Kings of Syria without; while the internal Glories of it were greatly obscured, and almost wholly lost, by those dange∣rous Corruptions in Doctrine, Discipline and Worship, which then over-spread the Jewish Church, and those scandalous Divisions into which it fell.
IT was also eminently Night, with the Gentile World, who being sunk into deplorable Darkness, were given up to the most abominable Idolatry and vile Affections. But as an Expectation of the Coming of the Messiah, the pro∣mised Deliverer, began now to prevail and become gene∣ral, 'tis not strange, that some among the Gentles, as well as the Jews, are represented, crying to the Watch∣man, What of the Night? When will the Darkness of the present Dispensation be over, and a Deliverer come out of Zion, to turn away Iniquity from Jacob? When will those Times of Ignorance which God has hitherto winked at in the Gentile World, be at an End, and Light arise to those that now sit in the Region of the Shadow of Death? How much of this dark Season is past? What yet remains? When will the Day break by the Appea∣rance of that glorious Person, who is to be a Light to the Page 12 Gentiles, and a Glory to God's People Israel? It might be supposed, that the Watchmen who were enquiring and searching diligently, what Manner of Time the Spirit in them did signify, when it testified before Hand, the Sufferings of Christ, and the Glory that should follow, could give an Answer to such a Question, as the Time and Manner of his Appaarance were so clearly pointed out. They might see, that the Scepter was a∣bout to depart from Judah, according to Jacob's Pro∣phesy*. That Daniel's 70 Weeks, or 490 Years, were near expiring. And as it must be during the Standing of the second Temple, to which he was suddenly to come, and fill with his Glory, according to Malachi†, it could not be long delayed. By these Hints, the Watchmen might know the Night was far spent, and answer as in the Text, The Morning cometh, the long expected Day is at Hand. In this View of the Words, the Watchman's Answer, that the Morning cometh, may point out the Light and Joy brought to the World by the Appearance of the Son of God. The Day began to dawn under the Ministry of John the Baptist. He was indeed a burn∣ing and a shining Light, compared with the other Pro∣phets; but was not the true Light, tho' like the Morning Star he ushered in the Day. But when the Sun of Righteousness arose with Healing under his Wings, he diffused Light, Life, and Joy, thro' a dark, dead, and chearless World. The Shadows of the former Dispen∣sation, and the thick Clouds of heathenish Ignorance and Superstition, fled before him, as the Darkness of the Night before the rising Sun. It was prophesied of him, that his going forth, should be prepared as the Morning.† As the natural Sun in the Morning spreads Joy and Gladness, thro' the wide Creation, so did CHRIST thro' a lost and ruined World. The Angel brings the News of his Birth, as Tidings of great Joy to all People. The Gospel preached in his Name was a ravishing Sound to all that Page 13 heard and received it: Like the Morning Light, it spread far and wide; grew brighter and brighter, towards a per∣fect Day. It had free Course and was glorified; tri∣umphing over all the Opposition of Earth and Hell.
WITH what divine Lustre and Beauty did the Church shine, in this Morning of her Days, when the pure Doct∣rines of the Gospel, were taught without that corrupt Mixture, which the Pride & Ignorance of Men have since introduced. She was as a City set on a Hill, and Mul∣titudes both Jews and Gentiles rejoyced in her Light. She seemed to answer the Description given of her by St. John, in his prophetic Vision; ‖ where she is represented as clothed with the Sun, having the Moon under her Feet, and a Crown of twelve Stars on her Head; a beautiful Image, expressing, in a lively Manner, the Glory, Honour, and Dignity of the Church. There appeared in her Members, in this early Age, such genuine Piety, and fervent Devotion; such lively Hope, & strong Faith; such warm and unfeigned Love to one another; such Meekness, and undissembled Humility; such Hea∣venly-mindedness and Deadness to the World; such uni∣versal Holiness, and Purity of Life; and made them shine like Lights in the World. Religion then appear'd amiable and alluring, as exemplified in the Lives of Pro∣fessors; which tended greatly to the propagating the Gospel. The Brightness of this Morning was soon ob∣scured. Many Errors of pernicious Influence crept into the Church, even while under the Conduct of inspired Men: But after the Apostles Decease, Men of corrupt Minds, began with more Freedom, to propagate their dangerous Doctrines, and licentious Practices, bringing swift Destruction on themselves, and their Followers. Towards the Close of the first, and during the second and third Centuries, the Church was greatly infested with Persons, who advanced the most absurd and dange∣rous Opinions, tending to the Destruction of all naturalPage 14 and revealed Religion;— the Nicolaitans, various Sects of the Gnostics, Corinthians, Valentinians, Marcionites, and Manichaeans, with a Train of other Heretics, who appeared in the early Ages of the Church; venting many impious Notions about God and Christ; the Origin of Good and Evil; the sacred Writings; and the Way of Salvation by Christ; to the great Reproach and Hin∣drance of the Gospel.—Some making GOD the Author of Sin; others denying the Unity of the Godhead; some the Divinity, and many the Humanity of CHRIST; while others even blasphemously pretended to be the Sa∣viour of the World themselves. What added to the Scandal of their Errors, the vilest Debaucheries, — the most abominable Crimes were countenanced & practised, under the Cloke of Religion; which the Enemies of Christianity, were malicious enough to impute, however unjustly, to all its Professors. While the Church was thus darkened, corrupted, and exceedingly scandalised by Heresies within; she was almost continually harrassed with violent Oppressions and cruel Persecutions, under the heathen Emperors from without; which continued with but little Intervals of Peace and Rest, during the three first Centuries. Tho' there was, in those early Ages of Christianity, much spiritual Light, and plentiful Commu∣nications of Divine Grace; yet during the ten general Persecutions, which so quickly succeeded one another, it might well be called Night; when compared to that State of external Peace & Prosperity, which the Church shall enjoy in the latter Days, &c. with Respect to the glorious Diffusion of Gospel Light, which may then be expected.
AT the Close of the third, & Beginning of the fourth Century, the Church was reduced to the last Extremity, by a Number of cruel Persecutors, who seemed to com∣bine together, for the utter Destruction of the Christian Name and Cause. Galerius, Diocletian, Maximin, and Maxentius, acted as if they vied with one another, in the Page 15 unheard of Cruelties, and monstrous Barbarities, exer∣cised towards the innocent Disciples of CHRIST: But the Churches Extremity, is GOD'S Opportunity; He begins to make bare his Arm; visibly to espouse the Cause of his distressed People; and to recompence Vengeance to those that afflicted them. Galerius, being seized with an incurable and intolerable Disease, expires in the Midst of most bitter Anguish and Torment. Diocletian, forced to resign his Authority, oppressed with a Load of Guilt, groans and sighs away his miserable Life. Maximin, after being defeated by Licinius, attempts to put an End to his own Life; but dies a lingering Death, amidst the most amazing Torments, acknowledging his Guilt, in having persecuted the Chirstians. In this dark Period, GOD also raises up that great Deliverer and Defender of his Church, Constantine; who, A. D. 312, gains a compleat Victory over that cruel Tyrant and grand Per∣secutor, Maxentius; which gave rest to the Church in the West: And the Death of Licinius, which happened soon after, who was first a Favourer, but afterwards a cruel Persecutor of the Christians, seemed to put an End to all their Troubles: They enjoyed free Liberty every where. Constantine ascribes the Glory of all his Victories, to the God and Father of our Lord, JESUS CHRIST. And as a Token of Gratitude, gives public Countenance to the Christian Religion; secures it by Edicts and Laws; erects Schools; builds and endows Churches; bestows many Immunities and Privileges on the Clergy, and dis∣tinguishes them with many public Marks of Honour and Respect. Thus the Darkness which had overspread the Church, began to scatter, and the Morning to appear. The Gospel had free Course and was glorified; there was opened an effectual Door, which no Man was al∣lowed to shut. A delightful Scene seemed now to open on the Church, and looked like the Beginning of a bright and glorious Day. Many had raised Expectations, that the happy Period was now come, when the Kingdoms of Page 16 this World, would become the Kingdoms of our Lord, and his Christ: But alas! how different did the Event prove. This Morning was soon overcast, & succeeded by a dark and dismal Night. The Honours, Dignities and Riches conferred on the Clergy, and the Church, introduced Luxury, Pride and Ignorance, with a long Train of dan∣gerous Consequences. About this Time, the Arian He∣resy sprung up, and spreading itself over a great Part of the Christian Church, proved destructive to the Faith once delivered to the Saints; threw the Church into great Confusions, and produced very sore Persecutions: The Emperors favouring sometimes the Arian; & some∣times the orthodox Party; which brought infinite Scandal on the Christian Name, & caused the Enemy to blaspheme.
SOON after Christianity had spread over a great Part of the Roman Empire, under Protection of the Govern∣ment; the most terrible Desolation, was brought on the Western Empire, by the northern barbarous Nations, viz. the Goths, Vandals, Almains, Sarmatians, Picts and Scots; who seemed to conspire together for its utter Ruin, and for a long Time continued wasting, burning, & de∣stroying all before them. About A. D. 410, Alaricus the Goth, sacked and plundered Rome; about Fifty-five Years after which, it was again plundered, and burnt by Gensericus, the Vandal. Soon after, it met with the same Fate from Richomerus 472; twice by Totila; and again by Attila, King of the Huns, who was above all the Rest, a sore Scourge, in the Hand of Providence, to the degenerate Christians of that Day.
WHILE the Empire was in this dreadful Confusion, by those barbarous Nations, gross Ignorance began to overspread the Christian World; for, by the Ravages they committed, Schools were dissipated, Ministers ba∣nished, and Learning buried. Those who were then on the Stage, being soon wasted with the Sword and Age; the rising Generation grew up in lamentable Ignorance. The most indeed of the Rulers of those barbarous Na∣tionsPage 17 embraced Christianity; but being very Ignorant, became an easy Prey to the Pride & Policy of the cor∣rupt and degenerate Clergy of the Day. This Oppor∣tunity the Bishop of Rome improved, to set himself up as the Head of the Church; the Successor of ST. PE∣TER; CHRIST'S Vicar on Earth; and found it but too easy a Matter to impose on those weak Princes, and an ignorant People, and thus to introduce those gross Corruptions, Superstitions, and false Doctrines, which have since proved so fatal to the Church: Thus Anti-christ began to be revealed, and gradually grew up to that Height of Wickedness, which he afterwards dis∣covered; exalting himself above all that is called God. The Darkness of this Night, brought on the Church, by Ignorance, Superstition, and the abominable Corruptions of Popery, were greatly increased by the Rise of that false Prophet and great Impostor Mahomet, who made his Appearance, A. D. 606; and notwithstanding the People of Mecca, attempted to crush the Impostor in the Bud, yet, A. D. 615, it began to spread; for hav∣ing by an apostate Jew, and Nestorian Monk, composed his Alcoran, and deluded his Followers, with a Notion of his being raised up by God, to institute a new Re∣ligion; he teaches them, that it is to be propagated by the Sword, and that it is meritorious to die for it.—By this Means, he soon brought all Arabia into his Power; and his Followers (who, from their pretended Descent from Sarah, Abraham's Wife, were called Saracens) soon over-run the greatest Part of Asia, and began to spread themselves exceeding fast in Europe, till their memorable Defeat by Charles Martel, A. D. 734.
THE Miseries brought on the Christian Church, by the Spread of this Impostor, were exceeding great. The glorious Light of the Gospel, which began to be obscured, with the Errors and Corruptions of the Church of Rome, seemed as if it would have been wholly extinguished. By this they brought such Ignorance & Error, Deceit, Vio∣lence Page 18 and Slavery, where ever they came, that it seemed as if the bottomless Pit had been opened, and Satan at the Head of the Powers of Darkness, come forth, accor∣ding to the prophetic Description of the Rise of this Im∣postor, Rev. ix. 2. And he opened the bottomless Pit, and there arose a Smoke out of the Pit, as the Smoke of a great Furnace, and the Sun and Air were darkened by Reason of the Smoke of the Pit, and out of the Smoke Locusts came, which fitly enough describes the Misery and Woe, stupid Ignorance and Superstition, which every where attended the Progress of the Mahometan Religion. The coming up of the Locusts, and Destruction they make where ever they go, emphatically represents the amazing and destructive Progress of the Saracens.
THIS dark and dismal Night, brought on the Church by the Rise of Popery, on the one Hand, and the Ma∣hometan Impostor on the other, continued for a long Time with but a little glimmering of Gospel Light, a∣mong a few that kept the Faith: Religion and Learning seemed likely to be banished from the World. But at the Close of the 15th, and Beginning of the 16th Cen∣turies, the Day began to dawn, by a glorious Reforma∣tion, which had been attempted, and struggled for, by Wickliff, in England; the Waldenses and Albigenses, in France; and John Huss, in Germany, long before: But was now carried on by Luther, under the Protection of the Elector of Saxony, with surprizing Success, in many Parts of Germany; who was joined by Melancton, and other noble Reformers; whilst Calvin, at Geveva, Zwing∣lius and Farellus, with a Train of faithful Witnesses for the Truth who appeared about this Time, were strenu∣ously supporting, and vigorously carrying on, (tho' with some small Difference, in lesser Matters) the same glo∣rious Cause. The Light of the Gospel seemed for a Season to shine brighter and brighter, spread far & wide in Spite of all the Methods the Popish Party made use of, by Bulls, Decrees of Councils, and the most unheard Page 19 of Cruelties, to stop and suppress it. The Pope's Au∣thority began very fast to decline. The Nations of England, Scotland, & Ireland, the northern Kingdoms of Denmark and Sweden, with great Numbers in France, Hungary & Bohemia, all received the Reformation, and disclaimed any Subjection to the Kingdom of the Beast.
THESE Things appeared like the Beginning of a joy∣ful Day, and many were ready to think, the glorious Things spoken Zion, in the latter Days, were now at Hand. There appeared in many of the first Reformers, such a Love to the Truth, and Zeal for practical Godliness, as gave a fair Prospect of a thorough Reformation; from all the Corruptions in Doctrine, Discipline and Worship, which had crept into the Church: But the Event fell far short of the raised Hopes of Zion's Friends. In many Places it was carried on chiefly by the civil Magistrate, who went no farther than to answer their political Schemes, and in most it was too much a formal, nominal Thing, conducted by the Wisdom of this World. So that it soon came to a Stand, and has been for many Years past on the Decline, as to the Principles and Practice of real Re∣ligion, and this sad Declension is growing fast on the pre∣sent Generation.
SOME may be ready perhaps by this Time, to put to Me the Question in the Text, Watchman, what of the Night? Whereabouts are Wo? Is it Night, or Day? What are the Signs of the Times, in which we are fallen? What may we look for? To which I answer, I am very far from pretending to a Spirit of Prophesy, or any such Insight into the prophetic Writings, as precisely to fix the Dates of those Times and Seasons, about which learned and pious Men have so widely differed; I may venture however, to affirm, some Things that appear evident and plain, and modestly offer my Thoughts about others, more doubtful and uncertain.
IT is, I think, every evident, that the Night brought on the Church, by the Delusions and Superstitiom of Page 20Mahomet, and the Pope still continues. Notwithstand∣ing the frequent Appearances of the Morning, the Dark∣ness still remains, and at present seems to increase. Po∣pery did indeed receive a great Wound at the Refor∣mation, and the Pope considered as a temporal Prince, has, as to his secular Power, been ever since, very much on the Decline, very little Regard being paid him to what former∣ly was; but this in many, arises more from Contempt of the Gospel, & all revealed Religion, than a Dislike to the Cor∣ruptions of Popery, or Regard to the Truth; and however, he be declined in secular Power, the Popish Religion, still greatly prevails. The greatest Part of Christendom are professedly of that Communion, and acknowledge Subjec∣tion to the Pope, as their spiritual Head; and the corrupt Doctrines of that Church, have of late Years very much prevailed in Protestant Countries.
THE Turks, who when they defeated the Saracens, adopted their Religion and Manners, which they have ever since been propagating, by their victorious Arms, (tho' they have been something weakened by their late Wars with the Germans) are yet in Possession of a conside∣rable Part of Asia, Europe, and Africa, where the Christian Religion formerly flourished. The Mahometans have ever been professed Enemies to Christianity, and endeavour to root it out wherever they come, and are at present, the greatest Obstacle in the Way of spreading the Gospel. And how great a Part of the World is yet involved in heathenish Darkness and Idolatry? When with these Things, we consider the sad Declensions, Corruptions and Divisions of the Reformed Churches, we are constrained to pronounce it Night. The Light of the Gospel does indeed shine, but tis like twinkling Stars in the Midst of Darkness, and Error.
SHOULD it now be enquired, What of this Night? How far is it advanced? And how much is yet to come? I answer, it appears to me, that we are in the Close of this dark Night, & that the Morning cometh. Could we de∣termine Page 21 when this Night began, it would be easy to fix on the Time of it's End; the Duration of it being plainly pointed out in prophetic Writings. The Beast to whom the Dragon (the Roman Emperor) gave his Seat, Authority, and Power, was to continue speaking great Things & Blasphemies, 42 Months, Rev. xiii. 2. & 5; which is just equal to the Time, Times and half Time▪ while the Woman, i. e. the Chruch is drove into the Wilderness, and there nourished, Rev. xii 14. Dur∣ing this Period, the Witnesses are to prophesy in Sack-cloth, or the faithful Messengers of CHRIST, are to Labour under Discouragements and Opposition, which was to continue 1260 Days, Rev. xi. 3. These several Numbers in prophetic Stile, taking a Day for a Year, make the same Period 1260 Years. So long the per∣secuting Power of the Beast will continue; and while it does, the Church will be in a Wilderness State, and the faithful Ministers of CHRIST will Prophesy in Sack-cloth. This persecuted, oppressed, benighted State of the Church, will be succeeded by those glorious Times, when Satan will be confined to the bottomless Pit, that he may no longer deceive the Nations, and when there shall be nothing to offend in all God's holy Mount. But when this dark State of the Church shall End, or where to fix it's Beginning, is a Matter of Uncertainty, as it seems to have come gradually on. ST. PAUL, indeed tells us, That the wicked one, whose coming was to be after the Workings of Satan, with all Power, Signs, and lying Wonders, should be revealed, when he that then let or hindered, was taken out of the Way. By him, that Let, the ancient, as well as modern Expositors, un∣derstand, the Romam Emperor, who, as long as he held his Seat and Power, prevented the Pope of Rome from deceiving the Nations, with his lying Wonders. The ancient Christians, therefore used to pray for the Con∣tinuance of the Roman Empire, that the coming of An∣tichrist might be delayed. If the Downfal of the Roman Page 22 Empire, may be reckoned from Rome's being sacked, and taken by the Irruptions of the Northern Nations, when almost the whole Empire, was over-run and divided a∣mong them; when the ten Horns, or Kingdoms arose, and gave their Power and Strength to the Beast;* the Destruction of Antichrist, and the End or this Night of Popish Darkness, is near at Hand; when he shall be de∣stroyed, by the Breath of CHIRST'S Mouth, and the Brightness of his Coming. But, tho' this Night is evi∣dently far spent, and the Day draws nigh, yet it appears to me not improbable, that the darkest Part of the Night yet remains, and that the glorious Times, the Church will enjoy in the latter Day, will be preceded with a Sea∣son of the sorest Calamity & Distress. It is the Opinion of many learned Divines, that there will be a general Slaughter of the Witnesses, who have thro' all the dark Ages of Popery, born a faithful Testimony to the Truth and Ways of Christ, a little before the seventh Angel sounds his Trumpet, for the utter Destruction of Anti∣christ's Kingdom, just when they are about finishing their Testimony, and consequently that this Event is future. But as some eminent Divines, and One, for whose Judg∣ment I have the highest Veneration, are of a defferent Opinion, and think it is already past, I shall offer what I have to say on this Head, with all Humility, & much Diffidence on my own Sentiments, about so dark an E∣vent: The Account we have of it is, Rev. xi. 7—13. And when they shall have finished their Testimony, the Beast that ascends out of the bottomless Pit, shall make War against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them; and their dead Bodies shall lie in the Street of the great City, which spiritually is called Sodom & Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the People, and Kindreds & Tongues, and Nations, shall see their dead Bodies three Days and an Half, and shall not suffer their dead Bodies to be put in Graves. And they Page 23 that dwell upon the Earth, shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send Gifts one to another; be∣cause these two Prophets tormented them that dwelt on the Earth. And after three Days and an Half, the Spirit of Life from God entered into them: And they stood upon their Feet, and great Fear fell upon them, which saw them. And they heard a great Voice from Heaven, saying unto them, "Come up hither": And they ascended up to Heaven in a Cloud, and their Ene∣mies beheld them.
THE Sum of which Passage seems to be this, viz. That when these faithful Witnesses who have so long prophesied in Sackcloth, are about concluding their Testi∣mony, there will be a severe Persecution raised by the antichristian Party; whereby all the faithful Ministers of the Gospel, will appear to be silenced or slain, and that in the most public, open, and ignominious Manner, so that their Enemies shall triumph as tho' the Day were their own; but this will continue only for a short Time, three Days and an Half; which, if it does not mean three Years and an Half, taking according to prophetic Stile, a Day for a Year; yet it doubtless means, that this Time of their Suffering will be but short, compared to the Time of their prophesying in Sackcloth; it will be but as a Day to a Year, as that is a Time, Times & half a Time, 1260 Years. After this they shall not only be restored to their former Liberty, but exalted to such a State of Dignity and Security, as they never before en∣joyed, and that in the Presence, and to the Confusion of their Enemies; and the Reasons which have made it ap∣pear to me not improbable that the Church has this dis∣tressing Scene yet to pass thro', are such as these:
1st. IT is to be at the Conclusion of their prophesying in Sackcloth, when they have just finished their Testi∣mony. When they shall have finished their Testimony. Thus we translate it, which indeed seems the most natural, genuine Construction of hotan teles si, cum perfecerint,Page 24 when they have about compleated or finished off their Testimony, as the original Word properly signifies; at the Close of 1260 Days, when the Period of Antichrist's Reign will be just at an End. But, as yet, this Period evidently continues, the faithful Ministers of Christ may, on many Accounts, be said, still to prophesy in Sackcloth, as the Mahometan and Antichristian Darkness yet re∣mains, and they are carrying on their Work under great Discouragements.
2d. HISTORY affords no past Events to which the slaying and Resurrection of the Witnesses, can well be applied. Some learned Men have, I know, endeavoured to find the Accomplishment of it, in sundry Persecutions, bro't on the faithful Witnesses for the Truth, none of which seem fully to answer the prophetic Description giv∣en of that Event. The Waldenses (Followers of Peter Waldo a Merchant of Lyons, in France) A. D. 1160, were persecuted with great Severity: 'Tis computed, that not less than 80,000 sealed their Testimony to the Truths of God with their Blood. Above a Million of the Albigenses (so called from their native Country in Languedoc) fell a Sacrifice in the same glorious Cause; but these were of too early a Date to answer the De∣scription; of too long Continuance, and confined to a particular Country; whereas the slaying of the Witnesses will be a general Thing; and it is worthy of Remark, that this was in a Country where the Witnesses have al∣most ever since, prophesied in Sackcloth, as all acquainted with the Hostory of France, well know. If they were slain in that Place, it is hard to say, when they rose, or were exalted. Much less can we find this Event accom∣plished, in the short Persecutions by Queen MARY, in England, or under the Duke of Savoy, in Piedmont, which were confined to so small a Part of the Church, however exactly they may seem to answer as to the Du∣ration. Many severe Persecutions have been carried on by the Papists, against the Protestants, in Hungary, Page 25 Bohemia, many Parts of Germany, and repeatedly in France; but all these were only partial slaying of the Witnesses. They were never so universally cut off, as the Prophesy seems to represent.
3d. IT would be difficult to show, that there ever has been that Resurrection, and glorious Exaltation of the Witnesses, which is to follow immediately after their lying dead three Days and an Half. What like this has happened upon any of the Persecutions that have yet been on the Protestant Churches? They are not only to be restored to Life, but to ascend up into Heaven. i. e. to be exalted to an higher State of Dignity and Power, than they have ever yet enjoyed; and this is to be in a public, open Manner, in the Presence, and to the Con∣fusion of their Enemies. They are to put off their Sack-cloth, & put it on no more. The Reproach of their former suffering State, will be wiped away: But the faithful Witnesses of Christ don't seem ever yet to have enjoyed any such State of Honour, Power, Influence and Secu∣rity, as is here represented. Something indeed, like this, seemed to have happened at the Reformation, when many of the first Reformers were protected and encouraged in their Work, against the Attempts of their Popish Adver∣saries; but when we consider the Opposition they met with, the frequent Persecutions in many Parts of the Protestant Countries, the great Discouragements one Way or another, under which the faithful Witnesses of Christ have laboured; we cannot but conclude, that the Time of their prophesying in Sackcloth yet continues.
4th. THE second Woe, does not appear yet to have passed away, nor any such Destruction and Consternation to be brought on the Seat of the Beast, as is to be at the same Time with the Slaughter and Resurrection of the Witnesses.
IF the second Woe, or Plague of the Sixth Trumpet, was brought on the Church, by the pouring out of the fifth Vial, when a Way was prepared for the Kings of Page 26 the East; or, the Turks suffered to over-run a con∣siderable Part of Europe; or, if it be referred to the Destruction and Darkness brought on many Parts of Christendom, by the Saracens; I say, to which soever of these Events it is referred, 'tis evident, this Woe bro't by the Mahometan Imposture, is not yet passed away, great Part of the World still groaning under it; and it is probable, this Woe is to End with the total Destruction and Abolition of the Turkish Empire. Neither does there appear to have been any such Destruction and Revolu∣tion in the Antichristian Dominions, as is represented by the great Earthquake; the Destruction of the Tenth Part of the City, and Slaughter of 7000 Men of Name; especially the Time never has yet been, when the Rest were affrighted, and gave Glory to God. They have been grieved, vexed and tormented, at the Progress of the Reformation, the Liberty granted to the faithful Witnesses; but so far have they been from repenting, and giving Glory to God, that, on the Contrary, they have been continually venting their Spite and Malice a∣gainst the Reformed Churches, and labouring, by all their hellish Arts, and popish Rage, to ruin and destroy them.
5th, IT has been God's usual Method to prepare his Church and People for extraordinary Favours, by ex∣traordinary Trials, and in the present corrupt State of Things, it seems highly proper that it should be so.
THE Affairs of Jacob's Family, are in the most di∣stressed Situation, before he hears that Joseph was yet alive, and that by him a Door was open for their Relief. The Children of Israel were reduced to the last Ex∣tremity, in their Egyptian Bondage, just before their re∣markable Deliverance. When was David in a greater Strait than at the Burning of Ziklag, a little before he was exalted to the Throne of Israel? The Persecution of the Church under the Emperors of Rome, was by far the most extreme and dangerous under Dioclesian, when her Deliverance drew nigh, and she was ready to Page 27 be exalted under Constantine. The Experience of many Christians can testify, that those Seasons in which they have been most highly favoured, with special Commu∣nications of Light and Love, have been preceded by re∣markable Darkness and Perplexity. That he should therefore prepare his Church, for those glorious Things spoken of it in the latter Days, by some extraordinary Trials, is no improbable Supposition. This Observation will be much strengthened, by considering the present de∣generate State of the Protestant Churches, which is such, that it can hardly be expected God should pass by, with∣out some special Tokens of his Displeasure.
AND if the Slaying of the Witnesses is not yet past, it is probable it may be near at Hand. But however it may be as to that particular Event,† about which I would be far from making any positive Conclusions; many Things may make us expect that difficult and trying Times are coming on the Church and the World. The dark Cloud that gathers so fast over our Nation and Land, seems to forebode Distress and Calamity, to the Protestant Churches in general. The British Nation has been for a long Time the great Bulwark of the Re∣formation, and should it be subdued, the other Protestant Powers in Europe could, by no Means, be a Match for their antichristian Enemies, when united together; and Page 28 a Door would open for a distressing Scene of Persecu∣tion, throughout all the reformed Churches: It gives me no Pleasure to be a Messenger of evil Tidings, nor would I make positive Assertions about future Events; yet I must say, our publick Affairs wear a dark Aspect. The Nation we are engaged with in War, is numerous, powerful and politic. France abounds with Men, and the King commands as many as he pleases into the Field; on every Occasion shows himself superior to our Expectations; and his being an absolute Monarch gives great Advantage in Point of Secrecy and Dispatch.
OUR old Friend and Ally, the Queen of Hungary, has joined the King of France, and so far as we can judge from her Conduct, designs to forsake us, whatever plausible Pretences, she may make to the Contra∣ry. No other Construction can be put on her joining our sworn Enemy, when at open War with us, in the Manner she has done; No Power in Europe, under greater Obligations to the British Nation; almost all the Wars we have been engaged in, since the Accession of King William, have been undertaken in Favour of the House of Austria. Louishourg, that important Fortress, was given up, that the Places the King of France had taken from her in Flanders, might be restored; yet now she has forsaken us at a critical Juncture; and what may we then expect from other Popish Powers. Spain ap∣pears waiting for nothing but a favourable Opportunity of declaring against us. The King of Poland, (Elector of Saxony) by a strange Turn of Politics, seems in∣clined to espouse the Interest of France. The Connec∣tions of the King of the two Sicilies are such, that he will readily join their Confederacy: And perhaps the King of Sardinia, will be obliged to join or stand neuter, in his own Defence. When to this, we add the Coldness, to say no worse with which we are treated by some of our Protestant Allies; it gives the Situation of our publick Affairs a dangerous and threatning Aspect.
Page 29And if we cast our Eyes on the British Colonies in America, Things look still darker. All our Schemes hitherto prove unsuccessful; our Enemies, small and contemptible as their Numbers appeared to us, every where get the Advantage. Braddock's mournful De∣feat last Year, has been attended with a Train of destructive Consequences. 'Tis not easy to conceive, what we have suffered from the barbarous Natives, under the Influence, and by the Assistance of the French; scarce a Paper from the Southward but brings Accounts of new Depredations & Murders. What ruinous Consequen∣ces may we expect from the Loss of Oswego? What an Advantage is hereby put into the Enemy's Hand; the Lake wholly at their Command, where we have expend∣ed such Sums. Our Shipping, Artillery, with the other Warlike Stores and Provisions, which we had conveyed there with great Cost and Labour; all fallen into the Hands of the Enemy, to be employed against us. All the fine Country adjacent, lost; and the few Indians, that have hitherto continued in our Friendship, will probably forsake us; and those that have remained neuter, join in with the Enemy; for now seems verified the Observa∣tion they made in a late Treaty at Albany,
DARK Tidings of late, like Job's Messengers, come in thick Succession, one after another. In the Midst of our Lamentations for the sad Fate of Oswego, comes the melancholly News, of Port-Mahon's being taken: The Loss of a Fortress so important, of such Consequence to the British Trade, in the Mediterranean, and which gives so much Advantage to the Enemy, must be exceeding great, highly aggravated by the disgraceful Circumstan∣ces which attended it; the Ferment into which it has thrown the Nation, and the lasting Dishonour done to the British Flag. I shall leave it to the Politicians of the Day, to point out the Cause of those sore Calami∣ties, Page 30 and make but one Remark, which must be obvious to all serious and thinking Persons.
THAT our Misfortunes have come upon us, in such a Manner, as plainly to point out the Hand of God there∣in; and shows us, that our Dependance on our own Wis∣dom & Strength, while by our Sins, we engage Heaven against us, is as vain as it is sinful — We have been great∣ly disposed to boast of our superior Strength by Sea, and glory in our Fleets, as a sure Refuge in a Time of Danger; but even they have failed us, and at a Sea∣son, when we most needed their Help, and seemed to have the highest Reason of Dependance upon them. This might serve to cure us of our Infidelity and vain Confi∣dence, and teach us our entire Dependence on God, and how great our Danger is, while his Hand is so evidently stretched forth against us. Our Expedition to Crown Point, will probably again, like the Rest of our Schemes, prove abortive. These Things, together with our di∣vided Councils, and dilatory Methods of Proceeding, make the Situation of public Affairs, look exceeding dan∣gerous, and may well alarm our Fears, as to what is com∣ing on our Nation, and Country.—And if we consider the present State of the Protestant Churches, will it not tend to increase our dark Apprehensions on this Head? What mournful Declensions, as to Doctrine, Dis∣cipline, and practical Godliness! God has evidently withdrawn his Spirit;—a sad Decay, as to vital Piety, is almost every where lamentably visible;—A Midnight Security seems to have fallen on the Churches;— Both Ministers and People, Saints and Sinners, slumber and sleep. Iniquity abounds; the Love of many waxes cold.—Lukewarmness and Indifference, in spiritual and divine Things; Want of Affection to God and Christ, to the Truths and Ordinances of the Gospel, are growing fast on the Professors of this Age. The Things that remain are just ready to die, and our Works are not found perfect before God.—The Gospel, and Page 31 all its Glories, grow more and more contemptible in the Eyes of Sinners and less precious in the Eyes of Saints.— The Lord's-Day, public Worship, and Ordi∣nances of his House, disregarded and slighted;—The Ministers of the Gospel treated with Contempt by many, with too much Neglect and Disregard by all; their Persons and Families poorly supported, their Character and Office little reverenced, and the important Messages they bring, undervalued and rejected. How widely different are Things in this Respect, from what they were in the Memory of many now alive! How little of that Re∣verence and Esteem for the ministerial Character, which was so remarkable among our Fore-fathers, is to be seen in our Day; and these Things are waxing worse and worse. Whether this arises from Declensions among Ministers or People, or both, it must be esteem∣ed a dark Symptom on the Church. Time would fail me, to speak of the mournful Growth of Infidelity, Profaneness, and all kind of abominable Immoralities: And when we consider these Things, have we not Reason to fear, that God will purify his Churches in the Furnace, that they may come forth as Gold tried and refined? Can we expect, that so much Dross and Corruption, as is now found among us, will be purg∣ed off any other Way? The Popish Powers may be suffered to unite their Strength, to prevail, and carry all before them for a Season; to slay, or silence the faithful Witnesses of Christ; to rejoyce, and send Gifts, as if the Day was their own, and to imagine they have Nothing to fear from them, who used to torment them Day and Night. This, as it will be the last Effort of the Man of Sin, and his Adherents, may, probably, be one of the most desperate Attacks, he has ever made on the Re∣formed Churches. Satan will seem to be loosed from the bottomless Pit, and will come in great Wrath, because his Time is short. But, blessed be God, tho' this will be a Time of great Darkness & Distress, yet it will soon be Page 32 over. The triumphing of the Enemies of Christ, will be short. When they think themselves most secure, and that there are none to oppose their Designs, sudden Destruction shall come upon them, as on a Woman in Travail, and they shall not escape. When the Whore of Babylon, or mystical Rome, shall say, I sit as a Queen, am no Widow, and shall see no Sorrow; then her Doom draws nigh; her Plagues shall come in one Day; Death, Mourning & Famine; and she shall be utterly burnt with Fire*. Happy shall they then be, who have come out from her, and are not Partakers of her Sin, that they may not receive of her Plagues. The Destruction of Antichrist, will not be at once; yet on the Resurrection and Exaltation of the Witnesses, he shall receive a deadly Wound, of which he shall never be healed, but consume away by the Breath of Christ's Mouth, and Brightness of his Coming. Such sudden and awful Judgments will then be brought upon him, as shall affrighten the Rest of the World, and cause them to give Glory to God. This, with the passing away of the second Woe, in the Over∣throw of the Turkish Empire, will open a Door for that glorious Spread of the Gospel promised in the latter Days. The third Woe under the sounding of the seventh Angel, which cometh quickly, will issue in the final and complete Destruction of Antichrist, and Confusion of all the implacable Enemies of the Church. Then shall be heard great Voices in Heaven, and the joyful Sound will spread far and wide on the Earth, saying, The Kingdoms of this World are become the Kingdoms of our Lord, and his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever†. Then, My Brethren, tho' we may be entering on the darkest, and most gloomy Part of the Night, which has continued so long, we may lift up our Heads with Joy, our Salvation draws near. The Night is far spent, and the Day is at Hand. The Morning cometh, and will usher in a glorious Day, when the Sun of Righte∣ousness Page 33 shall arise, and dispel the dark Clouds which now hang over his Church, become a Light to the Gentiles, and a Glory to God's People Israel; when the Light of the Moon shall be as the Light of the Sun, and the Light of the Sun sevenfold as the Light of seven Days*. This Day of the Churches Prosperity, is to continue for a Thousand Years; some suppose, prophetically taken, 360,000 Years, that Christ may have a longer Reign, and greater Number of Subjects, than the Prince of Darkness has had; but this may be accomplished in the Space of 1000 Years, (literally taken) of such Peace and Prosperity as the Church will then enjoy, when the Increase of Mankind will be so much greater, and their Destruction so much less than at other Times ‖. Some suppose Christ will reign personally here on Earth, during these 1000 Years, and that his bodily Presence will be the Glory of his Church; that the Saints, or, at least, the Martyrs, will be raised from the Dead, and reign with him. But such perplexing Questions and Difficul∣ties, are started on this Head, as I have never yet seen answered; and since it is represented as a greater Blessing to the Church, to have Christ interceding in Heaven, and the Presence of his Spirit on Earth; I see no Rea∣son, either to desire or expect it. 'Tis expedient (says Christ ‡) That I go away; for, unless I go, the Com∣forter will not come unto you. Without pronouncing any Thing decisively, about the exact Circumstances of these glorious Times, and the Manner in which they will be brought on, I will only say, That it seems evi∣dent, by the prophetic Description given of those Times, that their Glory will consist in the universal Promotion of true Christianity and real Religion, in the Gospel's having its genuine Effect on the Hearts and Lives of Men; such as were before hateful, and hating one a∣nother, will then have Hearts glowing with Love to God, Page 34 and one another; such as were before the Plagues and Pests of Society, will then become its Ornament, Delight and Defence; such as were before fierce and savage, malicious and revengeful, barbarous and cruel, will then become kind and gentle, courteous and for∣giving, meek and humble. The Lyon will be turned into the Lamb; and there shall be Nothing to offend in God's holy Mount. When supreme Love to God, and undissembled Affection to one another, reign, it will produce universal Harmony and Peace. Wars & Con∣tentions, angry Jars and Disputes, will cease; the Lamb shall lie down with the Wolf, and the Nations of the Earth will learn War no more. Such a glorious Change, in such a corrupt apostate World, can be brought about by Nothing short of a plentiful, out-pouring of the Spi∣rit of all Grace, who has immediate Access to the Hearts of the Children of Men, by his enlightning, purifying, and all-conquering Influences. That the Change will begin here; that without this, all Means must prove in∣effectual; and that this is sufficient to effect it, might be easily proved. Such abundant Effusion of the di∣vine Spirit, will open an effectual Door for the Gospel, to have free Course and be glorified, which no Man shall be able to shut. A preached Gospel will be attended with such Life and Power, as will subdue and soften the hardest Heart; it will shine with such Light & Glory, as that the Remainder of Pagan, Popish & Mahometan Darkness, will flee before it, as the Shadows of the Night before the rising Sun. The Inhabitants of the Earth shall be filled with the spiritual Knowledge of God and Christ, as the Waters cover the Sea‡; Conversions will be greatly multiplied; Sinners will flock to Christ, as Clouds, and as Doves to their Windows;—it will seem as if Nations were born in a Day: Then will God remember Mercy for his ancient People, the Jews. They shall be brought in with the Fullness of the Gen∣tile Page 35 World, which will be Life from the Dead*. This is expresly promised ‖, The Children of Israel shall a∣bide many Days without a King, and a Prince, with∣out a Sacrifice, Image, Ephod, &c. Afterwards shall they return, and seek the Lord their God, and David, their King. Then may it be said to the Church, Arise; shine forth; for thy Light is come, and the Glory of the Lord risen is upon thee; his Glory shall be seen upon thee, and the Gentiles shall come to thy Light, and Kings to the Brightness of thy Rising*.
PRINCES and Potentates, will, I imagine, par∣take of this plentiful Effusion of divine Grace, whereby Kings shall be made nursing Fathers, & Queens nursing Mothers to the Church†, disposed to cast their Crowns at the Feet of Jesus, and employ all their superior Ad∣vantages for the Honour of his Name, and Advance∣ment of his Cause; and with what striking Beauty and Force will Religion then shine, when recommended by such distinguished Examples!
MINISTERS of the Gospel, will doubtless have a double Portion of the Spirit, when it is so remarkably poured forth. They will then be like the Angel spoken of in Revelations, who flew through Heaven, having the everlasting Gospel. They will fly on the Wings of Zeal and Love, to publish the Wonders of divine Grace to a lost and ruined World. And their Meekness, Hu∣mility and Wisdom, will be equal to their Zeal. How different in that Day, will be the Preaching, Conver∣sation and Examples of Ministers, from what we now behold? And what glorious Effects may be expected from the Gospel, when it is published by those whose Hearts are full of a Sense of its Excellency, Truth and Importance; and when this shines forth in their Lives. Alas! how little do we know of this in the present Day? what a mournful withdrawment of the divine Spirit! Page 36 our Words freeze between our Lips; the divine Art of reaching the Heart, and alluring Souls to Christ is de∣parted from us. Long experienced Unsuccessfulness damps our Spirits; we speak as those that expect to la∣bour in vain, and spend our Strength for Nought.
CHRISTIANS, in general, will be favoured with un∣usual Communications of divine Grace, and shine as Lights in the World. There will be something con∣vincing and alluring in their Example: That mean, low, sordid Temper, that contentious, jangling, quarrel∣some Spirit, which now appears in most Professors, ob∣scures the Beauty of our holy Religion in the Eyes of Strangers, and is one of the greatest Obstacles to the Spread of the Gospel. But when true Religion comes to be properly exemplified in the Lives of Christians, there will appear such a Charm, and Excellency in it, as will strike and allure the Beholders, and have a peculiar Tendency to propagate it throughout the World.
FAMILIES will then, 'tis probable, be as remarkable for being Nurseries of Piety, as they now are for being Scenes of Disorder, Corruption, and Vice; when Chil∣dren will indeed be trained up for God, and come on the Stange of Action with Hearts animated with Love to him, and to all Mankind, and glowing Desires of be∣ing distinguished Blessings in their Day.
PUBLICK SCHOOLS, and Seminaries of Learning, will probably become Seats remarkable for Virtue, and true Religion; where it shall shine with divine Lustre, and diffuse its benign Influence far and wide: From those Fountains thus purified, will issue Streams that shall make glad the City of our God. I hint at these Things, as probable Means whereby the glorious De∣signs of God's Grace will be carried on, in the latter Day, that with our fervent Prayer, we may untite our earnest Endeavours for their Accomplishment.
WHAT a glorious Change will soon be produced, when God shall visit these dark Abodes, with such plen∣tiful Page 37 Effusions of his Spirit! What a new Face of Things must then appear in the moral World. Behold I cre∣ate a new Heaven, and a new Earth; be ye glad, and rejoice, for ever, in what I create, for I create Jerusalem a Rejoicing, and her People a Joy*. My Heart is inlarged on this delightful Subject, but having greatly transgressed my Bounds, I must conclude with a very brief Address, to My Reverend and dear Brethren, in the Gospel, who are convened on the present Occasion.
1st. LET us prepare for dark and distressing Times, if God should see fit to bring them on the Church in our Day.
THO' it be not for us to know the Times and Sea∣sons which God has reserved in his own Power; yet when he is both by his Word and Providence, giving Intimations of approaching Judgments, we ought, like Noah, to be moved with Fear, and prepare to meet them. This may especially be expected of us, who are appointed as Watchmen, to give warning to others. Tho' we can't pretend to penetrate into the Council of Heaven, as to future Events, yet he that runs, may read the present threatning Aspect of divine Providence; the loud Calls God is giving to the World, and to his Churches, to prepare to meet him: He speaks once; yea, twice; and that in a most solemn & moving Man∣ner; tho' few regard him. The Cloud gathers thick and dark upon us; our Nation and Land, filled with Sin against the holy one of Israel; challenging God to vindicate the Honour of his Majesty;—engaged in War with an ambitious, politic & warlike Nation, strengthned by a powerful Confederacy,—a Nation that has long been drunk with the Blood of the Saints;—our Coun∣cils and divided Schemes, turned into Foolishness; our vain Boastings and groundless Expectations, repeatedly disappointed. Have we not then Reason to tremble, for Fear of those Things that are coming upon us? Page 38 Should our Enemies, enraged as they have been, and flush'd with Victory as they now are, be suffered to prevail, and put in Execution their wicked Designs, to fill with Desolation and Woe, with the direful Effects of popish Bigotry, & lawless Tyranny, this once happy Land, which has so long been distinguished with Peace and Plenty, with Gospel Light and Liberty; what a lamentable Scene would it open! and what can we ex∣pect, but that Judgment will begin at the House of God. The Watchmen will doubtless first be attacked;—the Shepherd smiteen, that the Sheep may be scattered. What are we better than our Fathers? than the glorious Train of Martyrs, who have sealed their Testimony with their Blood; and why should we expect to die quietly in our Nests? And are we, My Brethren, pre∣pared for such trying Times as may soon come upon us? Is Christ, his Truths, and Ways, dearer to us, than our Lives? And can we freely sacrifice the latter in De∣fence of the former? Should we who are Leaders in Christ's Army, give back, and cowardly desert the glo∣rious Cause wherewith we are entrusted, our Guilt and Condemnation would be exceeding great. This would be to crucify the Lord afresh, and put him to open Shame, and for such there remains no more Sacrifice for Sin, but a certain looking for of Judgment, and fiery Indignation.
WE may, perhaps, in a warm Mood, like Peter say, Tho' all Men forsake thee, yet will not we. But have we that Self-denial, Faith and Love, that would carry us thro' the fiery Trial, bear us up under all the Variety of Tortures, which the Wit and Malice of our Enemies may invent? It must be Love, stronger than Death, such as many Waters cannot quench. We are loudly called in this Day, to stand with our Loins girt, and Lamps burning; to have, all our Graces, in a lively vigorous Exercise; our Evidences for Heaven clear, that we may be ready, if the Lord should come as a Page 39Refiner's Fire, and Fuller's Soap, to purify the Sons of Levi*. Let us continually look to the Author & Fi∣nisher of our Faith, and be animated cheerfully to suffer with him here, under the glorious Prospect that we shall reign with him for ever.
2d. WITH what Pleasure should we look forward to the joyful Period, when the Kingdoms of this World shall become the Kingdoms of our Lord, & of his Christ; and how ardently should we long and pray, for the Ap∣proach of it?
THO' many Trials may yet await us, and we should be call'd off from the Stage, before the Darkness of the present Night be past; yet it must be a delightful Tho't, that the Morning cometh, and will usher in a glorious Day to the Church, when the Cause of Truth and Ho∣liness, Peace and Purity, shall universally prevail, in Opposition to all the Heresy and Wickedness, Tumults and Corruptions, which have hitherto overspread the Earth; when the Prayers of the Saints in all Ages, for the Prosperity of Zion, shall be answered, and the glo∣rious Things spoken of her in the sacred Oracles, be fully accomplished.
WE, indeed, may be laid in the silent Dust, before this blessed Day appears; but we can now behold it, as Abraham saw the Day of Christ; and if we are pos∣sessed of the same excellent Spirit, shall rejoice and be exceeding glad. An Heart touched with a dutiful Sense of God's Honour and Interest, can't but be pleased, that he will be highly glorified in this apostate World, where he has been insolently affronted, and provoked, for so long a Time: Such must feel some peculiar E∣motions of Joy. While some say with the Psalmist, in Faith, be thou exalted, O! God, above the Hea∣vens, and thy Glory above all the Earth†. To a Soul animated with unfeigned Love to, and zealous Concern for, the Cause and Kingdom of the dear Re∣deemer, Page 40 how delightful the Prospect!—that he will one Day, have the greatest Interest in the Hearts of Men; take to himself Power, and Reign from Land to Land, and Sea to Sea; that his blessed Gospel, which is now treated with Scorn and Contempt, by lost and perishing Sinners, shall triumph over all the Opposition of Earth and Hell, have free Course and be glorified, throughout the World.
O! WHAT a refreshing, what a reviving Thought! that these Regions of Darkness, Guilt and Misery, shall be filled with spiritual Light, Life and Joy. The pre∣sent languishing State of true Religion, is, indeed, dis∣tressing; and the more so, when we consider, that it may possibly continue to the End of our Lives: But how pleasing the Contemplation, that it will certainly be revived, and flourish, tho' among future Generati∣ons; that God shall be served and glorified, by our Posterity, in a far better Manner than he has ever been by us. And that a People which shall be created, shall praise the Lord*. This may solace us, under the near Views of approaching Death, if, with good old Jacob, we can say to our Children, We die, but the Lord will be with you‡. As a believing View of Zion's further Prosperity and Glory, should support and comfort us, under our present Labours and Trials; so it should enlarge our Hearts, in constant, fervent Supplications to the Throne of Grace, that it may be accomplished. The Representation I have given, of the exceeding cor∣rupt and degenerate State of the Church, with other dark Prospects in the present Day, should be so far from discouraging, that it should greatly enliven and animate our Prayers; partly, as it tends to give us an affecting Sense of our entire Dependance on God, for so great a Mercy; and the utter Insufficiency of all Means for the Revival, and general Spread of true Religion in the World, without a plentiful Effusion of the divine Spirit: Page 41 And, partly, because Infidelity and Wickedness 〈◊〉 arrived to so great an Height, and Religion is 〈◊〉 to so low an Ebb, that it seems as if 〈…〉 come to the last Extremity, and that it was a fit 〈…〉 God to appear, and display the Greatness of his Power, Love and Faithfulness, to his Church, to convince the World, that the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against her. In∣stead therefore of desponding, under the present gloomy Appearance of Things, let us be awakned to greater Fervency in Prayer, and look forward with more earnest Expectations, for the Dawn of that glorious Day, when the whole Earth shall be filled with the Knowledge of the Lord. And tho' he should come as a Refiner's Fire, to purge and purify his Churches, in the Furnace of Af∣fliction, yet let us, with united Hearts, say, Come Lord Jesus; come quickly.
FINALLY, Let us be awakned in this dark and difficult Day, to a faithful zealous Discharge of the Duties of our Stations. It would be sad indeed, if, at such a time, we should do the Work of the Lord carelesly and deceitfully; if by our Sloth and Negligence, we should increase the deplorable Darkness and Dead∣ness, which is already on the Churches, and suffer the Cause of God to die in our Hands. We have every Motive to awaken our Zeal, and quicken our Dili∣gence, in our great Work. What we find to do for God, the Souls of our Hearers, and our bleeding Coun∣try, we should, in such a Day as this, do with al our Might. Allow me in Particular, to press the Necessity and Importance of uniting our most vigorous Attempts for a thorough and general Reformation. This is what we proposed in our Judicatory, and to which we unani∣mously agreed, viz. That we would not only explain, and warmly press in our public Discourses, the Neces∣sity of a Reformation, but exert ourselves in our several Spheres of Influence, to bring it about. This is what God is most evidently and loudly calling us to, in the Page 42 present Day. He has of late been giving extraordinary 〈◊〉 of impending Judgments, by mighty Winds, praeter••••Inundations, and terrible Earthquakes in divers places. The Frame of Nature seems to have been cast into a trembling Disorder, at the Approach of an angry God, and as it were in Astonishment, solemnly to call on the Inhabitants of a guilty World, to repent, and return, before his Wrath comes upon them to the utmost. The Displeasure of Heaven has been once and again testified against our Nation and Land. We have felt the Rebukes of an incensed Deity. The Cause of all which Calamities, is notorious and evident to all, who have any due Sense of God on their Minds, or be∣lieve that he rules among the Children of Men. God is openly and publickly affronted;—his Name used and prophaned, in the most atheistical Manner;—his Laws vi∣olated;—his Authority despised; —the loud Calls of his Word and Providence disregarded;—and all the Riches of his Grace, in the Gospel, slighted;—while Profanity and Infidelity, Luxury & Debauchery, Pride and Oppression, reign without Controul, among those that make no Pretensions to Religion. Decays in Faith, Love and Zeal, a Conformity to the World, and Dead∣ness to spiritual and divine Things, are visible, and la∣mentable, among its Professors. These Things have kindled the Anger of Heaven against us, and it is not turned away; but his avenging Hand is stretched out still. And shall not God punish for these Things? Will he not be avenged on such a People as this? Can we expect, that all the public Contempt thrown on his Authority and Government, will be passed by without Tokens of his angry Resentment, unless Repentance and Reformation prevent.
IT is well known, that I have not been backward in using the little Influence I have, in animating my Coun∣try-men, to a vigorous Defence of their Lives and Liber∣ties, in the use of all proper Means; and I wish it were Page 43 in my Power, to awake in them a greater Sense of the Necessity of being alive, and thoroughly engaged in this Matter. But I must freely declare, I have no Expec∣tations of Safety to the Nation or Land, from any of our Preparations, till a Sense of our Dependance on God, and a Disposition to return to him by Repentance and Reformation, prevails. The Judgments of Hea∣ven are manifestly on us; but who lays it to Heart? Who suitably regards the Works of the Lord, and the Operations of his Hand? We can discern, or imagine we discern, the Cause of our Calamities, in the Weak∣ness of one, the Cowardice of another, and the Treachery of a third, whilst the procuring Cause of all is overlooked and forgot. That our Danger is great, and near, is acknowledged by all; but where do we look for Deliverance? Is it not to our victorious Fleets?— the Wisdom of our Commanders?—the Number and Bravery of our Men? Our mournful Disappointments, instead of curing, do but increase our Infidelity and Folly. We can see the Error or our last Scheme, and determine to rectify it in the next; almost every one imagines, he could conduct Matters better, and point out a Way of Safety, if he was at the Head of Affairs; but forgets, that the Race is not to the Swift, nor the Battle to the Strong. The Hand of God is disregar∣ded;—no suitable Pains taken, to remove the Cause of his awful Displeasure against us. But till there be some public, visible Humiliation for, and Reformation of, those open Abominations, which cry to Heaven for Vengeance; we need not think it strange, if God should send such a Spirit of Confusion into all our Councils; — suffer such cross Interests, mutual Jealousies & Distrust; such Divisions & Perplexities, to prevail in our Schemes, as naturally tend to defeat all our Attempts, and bring about our Ruin. Should this, I say, befal us, it would be no strange Thing; 'tis no more than what has fre∣quently Page 44 happened to sinful, impenitent People;—no more than what we have Reason to expect, if Repen∣tance prevent not §.. We, My Brethren, who are set on the Walls of God's Jerusalem, to give Warning of approaching Danger, can't but see the Necessity of Re∣pentance and Reformation, to avert impending Judg∣ments; and surely it concerns us, to join in with the alarming Calls of divine Providence, and endeavour to awaken in all around us, a Sense of these Things. The Eyes of God, Angels and Men, are upon us, to ob∣serve our Conduct in this Day of publick Calamity and Distress. From us, the beginning and carrying on, this so necessary a Work, is justly expected, whose Obliga∣tions to, and Advantages for it, are great and distingush∣ing.
THE Glory of God; the Interest of Religion; the Welfare of our bleeding Country, and the solemn Ac∣count we must soon give to our Judge, call for our diligent Activity & Zeal, in this Matter, as well as our own public voluntary Agreement, that we would unite our Endea∣vours, & exert our Influence in our several Stations, for this Purpose; in which we humbly hope, & earnestly desire, that we may be joined by our Brethren of every Deno∣mination throughout the Land. The Example and Advice of those of the sacred Character, we might rea∣sonably expect, would animate Magistrates, and Heads of Families, to engage in the same laudable Design, prove the Means of bringing about the so much needed, and wish'd for Reformation, and so of saving a sinning Land, from deserved impending Ruin. Let our At∣tempts for this Purpose, according to our Proposal*, be accompanied with extraordinary Prayer to God, who Page 45 has the Hearts of all Men in his Hand; and to this we may be excited and encouraged, by a Variety of Mo∣tives; and in particular, from a Prospect of being join∣ed by many in several Parts of the Land. Our Bre∣thren, in some Parts of New-England, have set us a laudable Example, in this Respect, and I hope their Zeal and Forwardness, will provoke very many; aad now God begins to pour out a Spirit of Prayer and Supplication, of Repentance and Reformation, on Mi∣nisters and People *, we ought to esteem it a Token for Good;—it should animate our Prayers;—envigorate our Hopes;—and enliven all our Attempts for the Safety and Deliverance of our Country. And while we are opening to our People a dark Scene, from the crying Sins, and distressing Calamities of the Day, to alarm and arouse them from their Security and vain Confi∣dence; I trust we shall not fail to animate them to a vigorous Defence of their Lives and Properties, by set∣ting before them all the Horrors of Popery, Slavery and Death, which may follow the victorious Arms of our antichristian Foes, on the one Hand; and on the other, all the invaluable Priviledges of unadulterated Christi∣anity; British Liberty and Property, in a delightful and fruitful Country, which may be the happy Conse∣quences of our vigorously exerting our selves to bring them to honourable Terms of Peace.—Priviledges of infinite Value! for which we should bravely resolve, to spend our last Breath, in Prayer; the last Penny of our Estates, and the last Drop of our Blood. The Face of our public Affairs has indeed hitherto looked dark, from a Spirit of Animosity and Division, which has spread thro' the Country;—divided our Councils;— confused and greatly weakened all our Schemes. But, blessed be God, there is now a Foundation laid, for our happy Union under a noble Commander, a Branch of Page 46 that illustrious Family, which has so long been distinguish∣ed for their warm Attachment to, and Zeal for, the Re∣ligion and Liberties of their Country. The signal Proofs he has already given, of his good Conduct, un∣shaken Loyalty, and steady Attachment to our excel∣lent Constitution; his generous disinterested Love to the British American Colonies, which induced him to submit to all the Fatigues and Dangers of his impor∣tant Station, for their Relief, joined with all the amiable Qualities he has discovered; conspire to raise him high in our Esteem and Regard; and must naturally tend to raise our drooping Spirits, and enkindle in every Breast, a noble Ardor to distinguish themselves in the Service of their Country.
ADN should the several Colonies harmoniously unite, to strengthen his Hands, and nobly exert themselves in the common Cause, he might be, under God, a happy Instrument of retrieving our shameful Losses, of hum∣bling our ambitious triumphing Foes, and restoring Peace and Tranquility to this bleeding Land. Which, may GOD, of his infinite Mercy, grant, thro' JESUS CHRIST, our LORD, AMEN.