ZECHARIAH 8:20, 21, 22.
Thus saith the Lord, of hosts, It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of Army cities: and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.
I COME now, as was proposed, in the third place, answer and obviate some objections, which some may ready to make against what has been proposed to us.
Such agreement superstitions, answered.
SOME may be ready to say, that for Christian, in such manner to set apart certain seasons, every week, and every quarter to be religiously observed and kept for the purposes proposed, from year to year, would be, in effect, establish certain periodical times of human invention and appointment, to be kept holy to God; and so to do the very thing, that has ever been objected against, by a very great part of the most eminent Christians and divine among protestants, as what men have no right to do being for them to add to God's institutions, and introduce their own inventions and establishments into the stated worship of God, and lay unwarrantable bonds men's consciences, and do what naturally tends to superstition.
To this I would say, there can be no justice in such an objection against this proposal, as made to us in the forementioned Memorial. Indeed, that caution appears in the project itself, and in the manner in which it is proposed to us, that there is not so much as any colour for the objection. The proposal is such, and so well guarded, that there seems to be no room for the weakest Christian who well observes it, to understand those things to be implied in it, which have indeed been objected against by many eminent Christians and divines among protestant as entangling men's consciences, and adding to divine institutions, etc. -- Here is no presence of establishing any thing by authority; no appearance of any claim of power in the proposers, or right to have any regard paid to their determinations or proposals, by virtue of any deference due to them, in any respect. So far from that, they expressly propose what they have thought of to others, for their amendments and improvements, declaring that the, choose rather to receive and spread the directions and proposals of others, than to be the first authors of any.
No times, not sanctified by God's own institution, an proposed to be observed more than others, under any notion of such times being, in any respect, more holy or more honourable, or worthy of any preference, or distinguishing regard; either as being sanctified, or made honourable, by authority, or by any great events of divine providence, or any relation to any holy persons or things but only as circumstantially convenient, helpful to memory especially free from worldly business, near to the times of the administration of public ordinances, etc. None attempts to lay any bonds on others, with respect to this matter; or to desire that they should lay any bonds on themselves; or look on themselves as under any obligations, either by power or promise; or so much as come into any absolute determination in their own minds, to set apart any stated days from secular affairs; or even to fix on any part of such days, without liberty to alter circumstances, as shall be found expedient; and also liberty left to a future alteration of judgment, as to expediency, on future trial and consideration. All that is proposed is, that such as fall in with what is proposed in their judgments and inclinations, while they do so should strengthen, assist, and encourage their brethren that are of the same mind, by visibly consenting and joining with them in the affair. Is here any thing like making laws in matters of conscience and religion, or adding men's institutions to God's; or any show of imposition, or superstitious esteeming and preferring one day above another, or any possible ground of entanglement of any one's conscience?
For men to go about by law to establish and limit circumstances of worship, not established or limited by any law of God, such as precise time, place, and order, may be in many respects of dangerous tendency. But surely it cannot he unlawful or improper, for Christians to come into some agreement, with regard to these circumstances: for it is impossible to carry on any social worship without it. There is no institution of Scripture requiring any people to meet together to worship God in such a spot of ground, or at such an hour of the day; but yet these must be determined by agreement, or else there will be no social worship, in any place, or any hour. So we are not determined by institution, what the precise order of the different parts of worship shall be, what shall precede and what shall follow; whether praying or singing shall be first, and what shall be next, and what shall conclude: but yet some order must be agreed on, by the congregation that unite in worship; otherwise they cannot jointly carry on divine worship, in any way of method at all. If a congregation of Christians agree to begin their public worship with prayer, next to sing, then to, attend on the preaching, of the word, and to conclude with prayer; and do by consent carry on their worship in this order from year to year; though this order is not appointed in Scripture, none will call it superstition. And if a great number of congregations, through a whole land, or more lands than one, do, by a common consent, keep the same method of public worship; none will pretend to find fault with it. But yet for any to go about to hind all to such a method, would be usurpation and imposition. And if such a precise order should be regarded as sacred, as though no other could be acceptable to God, this would be superstition. If a particular number of Christians shall agree, that besides the stated public worship of the sabbath, they will, when their circumstances allow, meet together, to carry on some religious exercises, on a sabbath day night for their mutual edification; or if several societies agree to meet together in different places at that time, this is no superstition; though there be no institution for it. If people in different congregations, voluntarily agree to take turns to meet together in the house of God, to worship him and hear a public lecture, once a month, or once in six weeks; it is not unlawful though there be no institution for it: but yet, to do this as a thing sacred, indispensable, and binding on men's consciences, would be superstition. If Christians of several neighbouring congregations, instead of a lecture, agree on some special occasion to keep a circular fast, each congregation taking its turn in a certain time and order, fixed on by consent; or if, instead of keeping fast by turns, on different days, one on one week and one on another, they shall all agree to keep a fast on the same day, and to do this either once or frequently, according as they shall judge their own circumstances, or the dispensations of the divine providence, or the importance of the mercy they seek, require; is there any more superstition in this?
That such agreement is, whimsical and pharisaical, answered.
SOME may be ready to say, there seems to be something whimsical in its being insisted on that God's people in different places should put up their prayers for this mercy at the same time; as though their prayers would be more forcible on that account; and as if God would not be so likely to hear prayers offered up by many, though they happened not to pray at the same time, as he would if he heard them all at the same moment. To this I would say, if such an objection be made, it must be through misunderstanding. It is not signified or implied in any thing said in the proposal, or in any arguments made use of to enforce it, that I have seen, that the prayers of a great number in different places, will be more forcible, merely because of that circumstance, of their being put up at the same time. It is indeed supposed, that it will be very expedient, that certain times for united prayer should be agreed on: which it may be, without implying the thing supposed in the objection, on the following accounts.
1. This seems to be a proper expedient for promoting and maintaining an union among Christians of distant places, in extraordinary prayer for such a mercy. It appears, from what was before observed, that there ought to be extraordinary prayers among Christians for this mercy; and that it is fit God's people should agree and unite in it. Though there be no reason to suppose that prayers, will be more prevalent, merely from the circumstance, that different persons pray exactly at the same time, yet there will be more reason to hope, that prayers for such mercy will be prevalent, when God's people are very much in prayer for it, and when many of them are united in it. If therefore agreeing on certain times for united and extraordinary prayer, be a likely means to promote an union of many in extraordinary prayer, then there is more reason to hope, that there will be prevalent prayer for such a mercy, on occasion of certain times for extraordinary prayer being agreed on. But that agreeing on certain times for united extraordinary prayer, is a likely and proper means to promote and maintain such prayer, I think will be easily evident to any one that considers the matter. If there should be only a loose agreement or consent to it as a duty, or a thing fit and proper, that Christians should be much in prayer for the revival of religion, and much more in it than they used to be, without agreeing on particular times, how liable would such a lax agreement be to be soon forgotten, and that extraordinary prayerfulness, which is fixed to no certain times to be totally neglected! To be sure, distant parts of the church of Christ could have no confidence in one another, that this would not be the case. If these ministers in Scotland, for instance, instead of the proposal they have made, had sent abroad only a general proposal, that God's people should, for the time to come, be much in more prayer for the advancement of Christ's kingdom, than had been common among Christians heretofore; and they should hear their proposals were generally allowed to be good, and that ministers and people, in one place and another, owned that it was a very proper thing; could they, from this only, have the like grounds of dependence, that God's people, in various parts of the Christian world, would indeed henceforward act unitedly, in maintaining extraordinary prayer for this mercy? And how much more promising would it be, if they should not only hear, that the duty in general was approved of, but also that particular time were actually fixed on for the purpose, and an agreement and joint resolution was come into, that they would, unless extraordinarily hundred, set apart such particular seasons to be spent in this duty, from time to time, maintaining this practice for a certain number of years!
2. For God's people in distant places to agree on certain times for extraordinary prayer, wherein they will unitedly put up their requests to God, is a means fit and proper to be used, in order to the visibility of their union in such prayer. Union among God's people in prayer is truly beautiful, as before shown; it is beautiful in the eyes of Christ, and it is justly beautiful and amiable in the eyes of Christians. And if so, then it must needs be desirable to Christians that such union should be visible. If it would be a lovely sight the eyes of the church of Christ, and much to their comfort, to behold various and different parts of the church denied in extraordinary prayer for the general outpouring of the Spirit, then it must be desirable to them that such an union should be visible, that they may behold it. But the agreement and union of a multitude in their worship becomes visible, by an agreement in some external visible circumstances. Worship itself becomes visible worship, by something external and visible belonging to the worship, and no other way: therefore, union and agreement of many in worship becomes visible no other way, but by union and agreement in the external and visible acts and circumstances of the worship. Such union and agreement becomes visible, particularly by an agreement in those two visible circumstances, time and place. When a number of Christians live near together, and their number and situation is convenient, and they have a desire visibly to unite in any acts of worship, they are wont to make their union and agreement visible by an union in both these circumstances. But when a much greater number of Christians, dwelling in distant places so that they cannot unite by worshipping in the same place, yet desire a visible union in some extraordinary worship they are wont to make their union and agreement visible by agreeing only in the former of those circumstances, viz. that of time. This is common in the appointment of public fasts and thanksgiving's; the same day is appointed, for the performance of that extraordinary worship, as a visible note of union. To this common sense leads Christians in all countries. And the wisdom of God seems to dictate the same thing in appointing that his people, in their stated and ordinary public worship every week, should manifest this union and communion one with another, as one holy society; by offering up their worship on the same day; for the greater glory of their common Lord, and the greater edification and comfort of the whole body.
If any yet find fault with the proposal of certain times to be agreed on by God's people in different places, in the manner set forth in the Memorial, I would ask, Whether they object against any such thing, as a visible agreement of God's people, in different parts of the world, in extraordinary prayer, for the coming of Christ's kingdom? Whether such a thing being visible, would not be much for the public honour of God's name? And whether it would not tend to Christians' assistance, and encouragement in the duty, and also to their mutual comfort, by a manifestation of that union which is amiable to Christ and Christians, and to promote a christian union among professing Christians in general? And whether we have not reason to think from the word of God, that before that great revival of religion foretold is accomplished, there will be a visible union of the people of God, in various parts of the world, in extraordinary prayer for this mercy? If these things are allowed, I would then ask further whether any method can be thought of or devised, whereby an express agreement, and visible union of God's people, in different parts of the world, can be maintained but this, or some other equivalent to it? If there be an express agreement about any extraordinary prayer at all, it must first be proposed by some, and others must fall in, as represented in my text. And if extraordinary prayer be agreed on, and maintained by many in different places visibly one to another, then it must be agreed with regard to some circumstances, what extraordinary prayer shall be kept up; and this must be seen and heard of, from one to another. But how shall this be, when no times are agreed upon, and it is never known, by those in different parts, when, or how open, any others do attend this extraordinary prayer? The consequence must necessarily be, that it can never be known how far, or in what respect, others join with them in extraordinary prayer, or whether they do it at all; and not so much as one circumstance of extraordinary prayer will be visible, and indeed nothing will be visible about it. So that I think any body that well considers the matter, will see that he who determines to oppose such a method as is proposed to us in the Memorial and all others equivalent to it, is, in effect, determined to oppose there ever being any such thing at all, as an agreed and visibly united prayer, in the church of God, for a general outpouring of the Spirit.
3. Though it would not be reasonable to suppose, that merely such a circumstance, as many people praying at the same time, will directly have any prevalence with God; yet such a circumstance may reasonably be supposed to have influence on the minds of men. Will any deny, that it has any reasonable tendency to encourage, animate, or in any respect to help the mind of a Christian in serving God in any duty of religion, to join with a Christian congregation, and to see an assembly of his dear brethren around him, at the same time engaged with him in the same duty? And supposing one in this assembly of saints is blind, but has ground of satisfaction that there is present a multitude of God's people united with him in the same service; will any deny, that his supposing this, and being satisfied of it, can have any reasonable influence upon his mind, to excite and encourage him, or in any respect to assist him, in his worship? The encouragement that one has in worship, by others being united with him, is not merely by the external senses, but by the knowledge the mind has of that union, or the satisfaction the understanding has that others, at that time, have their minds engaged with him in the same service; which may be, when those unitedly engaged are at a distance one from another, as well as when they are present. If one be present in a worshipping assembly, and sees their external behaviour; their union with him in worship, he does not see; and what he sees, encourages him in worship, only as an evidence of that union and concurrence which is out of sight. And a person may have such evidence of this, concerning absent worshippers, as may give him satisfaction of their union with him, no less than if they were present. And therefore the consideration of others being at the same time engaged with him in worship, though absent, may as reasonably animate and encourage him in his worship, as if they were present.
There is no wisdom in finding fault with human nature, as God has made it. Things that exist now, are in themselves no more important, than the like things, in time past, or in time to come: yet, it is evident, that the consideration of things being present, at least in most cases, especially affects human nature. For instance, if a man could be certainly informed, that his dear child at a distance was now under some extreme suffering; or, that an absent most dear friend was at this time thinking of him and in the exercise of great affection towards him, or in the performance of some great deed of friendship; or, if a pious parent should know that now his child was in the act of some enormous wickedness; or that, on the contrary, he was now in some eminent exercise of grace, and in the performance of an extraordinary deed of virtue and piety; would not those things he more affecting to human nature, for being considered as things at the present time than if considered as at some distance of time, either past or future? Hundreds of other instances might be mentioned wherein it is no less plain, that the consideration of the present existence of things, gives them advantage to affect the minds of men. Yea, it is undoubtedly so with things in general, that takes any hold at all of our affections, and towards which we are not indifferent. And if the mind of a particular child of God is disposed to be affected by the consideration of the religion of other saints, and of their union and concurrence with him in any particular duty or act of religion, I can see no reason why the human mind should not be more moved by the object of its affection, when considered as present, as well in this case, as in any other care: yea, I think, we may on good grounds determine there is none.
Nor may we look upon it as an instance of the peculiar weakness of human nature, that men are more affected with things considered as present, than those that are distant: but it seems to be a thing common to finite minds, and so to all created intelligent beings. Thus, the angels in heaven have peculiar joy, on occasion of the converse of a sinner, when recent, beyond what they have in that which has been long past. If any therefore shall call it silly and whimsical in any, to value and regard such a circumstance, in things of religion, as their existing at the present time, so as to be the more affected with them for that; they must call the host of angels in heaven a parcel of silly and whimsical beings.
I remember, the Spectator, (whom none will call a whimsical author,) somewhere speaking of different ways of dear friends mutually expressing their affection, and maintaining a kind of intercourse, in absence one from another, mentions such an instance as this, with much approbation, viz. That two friends, who were greatly endeared one to another, when about to part, and to be for a considerable time necessarily absent, that they might have the comfort of the enjoyment of daily mutual expressions of friendship in their absence; agreed that they would, every day, precisely at such an hour, retire from all company and business, to pray for one another. Which agreement they so valued and so strictly observed, that when the hour came, scarce any thing would hinder them. And rather than miss this opportunity, they would suddenly break off conversation, and abruptly leave company they were engaged with. -- If this be a desirable way of intercourse of particular friends, is it not a desirable and amiable way of maintaining intercourse and fellowship between brethren in Christ Jesus, and the various members of the holy family of God, in different parts of the world, to come into an agreement, that they will set apart certain times, which they will spend with one accord, in extraordinary prayer to their heavenly Father, for the advancement of the kingdom, and the glory of their common dear Lord and Saviour, and for each others prosperity and happiness, and the greatest good of all their fellow-creatures through the world?
Some perhaps may suppose, that it looks too much like Pharisaism, when persons engage in any such extraordinary religious exercises, beyond what is appointed by express institution, for them thus designedly to make it manifest abroad in the world, and so openly to distinguish themselves from others. But all open engagement in extraordinary exercises of religion, not expressly enjoined by institution, is not Pharisaism, nor has ever been so reputed in the Christian church. As when a particular church or congregation of Christians agree together to keep a day of fasting and prayer, on some special occasion; or when public days of fasting and thanksgiving are kept throughout a Christian province or country: and though it be ordinarily the manner for the civil magistrate to lead in setting apart such days; yet that alters not the case: if it be Pharisaism in the society openly to agree in such extraordinary exercises of religion, it is not less Pharisaism for the heads of the society leading in the affair. And if the civil magistrate was not of the society of Christians nor concerned himself in their affairs; yet this would not render it the less suitable for Christians, on proper occasions, jointly, and visibly one to another, to engage in such extraordinary exercises of religion, and to keep days of fasting and thanksgiving by agreement.
It cannot be objected against what is proposed in the Memorial, that it would look like affecting singularity, and open distinction from others in extraordinary religion, like the Pharisees of old: because it is evident the very design of the Memorial is not to promote singularity and distinction, but as much as possible to avoid and prevent it. The end of the Memorial is not to limit the thing proposed, that it may be practised only by a few, in distinction from the generality, but on the contrary to make it as general among professing Christians as possible. Some had complied with the extraordinary duty proposed, and therein had been distinguished from others, for too years, before the Memorial was published, and they were more distinguished than they desired; and therefore sent abroad this Memorial, that the practice might be more spread, and become more general, that they might be less distinguished. What they evidently seek, is to bring to pass as general a compliance as possible of Christians of all denominations, entreating, that the desire of concurrence and assistance, contained in the Memorial, may by no means be understood as restricting to any particular denomination or party, or those who are of such or such opinions about any former instances of remarkable religions concern; but to be extended to all, who shall vouchsafe any attention to the proposal, and have at heart the interest at vital Christianity, and the power of godliness: and who, however differing about other things, are convinced of the importance of fervent prayer, to promote that common interest, and of scripture persuasive to promote such prayer.
That such agreement is premature, answered.
Another objection, very likely to arise in the minds of many against such extraordinary prayer for the speedy coming of Christ's kingdom, is, that we have no reason to extract it, till there first come a time of most extreme calamity to the church, and a prevalence of her antichristian enemies against her; even that which is represented in Revelation 11 by the slaying of the witnesses; but have reason to determine the contrary.
It is indeed an opinion that seems pretty much to have obtained, that before the fulfillment of the promises relating to the church's latter-day glory, there must come a most terrible time, a time of extreme suffering, and dreadful persecution of the church of Christ; wherein Satan and antichrist are to obtain their greatest victory over her, and she is to be brought lower than ever by her enemies. This opinion has chiefly risen from the manner of interpreting and applying the fore-mentioned prophecy of the slaying of the witnesses; and must needs be a great hindrance, with regard to such an affair as is proposed to us in the Memorial. If persons expect no other, than that the more the glorious times of Christ's kingdom are hastened, the sooner will come this dreadful time, wherein the generality of God's people must suffer so extremely, and the church of Christ be almost extinguished, and blotted out from under heaven; how can it be otherwise than a great damp to their hope, their courage and activity, in praying for, and reaching after the speedy introduction of those glorious promised times? As long as this opinion is retained, it will undoubtedly ever have this unhappy influence on the minds of those that wish well to Zion. It will tend to damp and keep down joyful expectation in prayer; and even in great measure to prevent all earnest, animated, and encouraged prayer, in God's people, for this mercy, at any time before it is actually fulfilled. For they who proceed on this hypothesis in their prayers, must, at the same time that they pray for this glorious day, naturally conclude within themselves, that they shall never live to see on earth any dawning of it, but only the dismal time that shall precede it; in which the far greater part of God's people who shall live till then, shall die under the extreme cruelties of their persecutors. And the more they expect that God will answer their prayers, by speedily bringing on the promised glorious day, the more must they expect themselves to have a share in those dreadful things, that nature shrinks at, and also expect to see what a renewed nature dreads, even the prevailing of God's enemies, and the almost total extinction of true religion in the world. And on this hypothesis, these discouragements are like to attend the prayers of God's people, till that dismal time be actually come: and when that is come, those who had been prophesying and praying in sackcloth, shall generally be slain: and after that time is over, then the glorious day shall immediately commence. So that this notion tends to discourage all earnest prayer in the church of God for that glorious coming of Christ's kingdom, till it be actually come, and that is to hinder its ever being at all.
This opinion being of such hurtful tendency, it is a thousand pities it should be retained, if truly there be no good ground for it. Therefore in answer to this objection I would, with all humility and modesty, examine the foundation of that opinion, of such a dreadful time of victory of antichrist over the church, yet to be expected and particularly shall endeavour to show that the slaying of the witnesses, foretold, Revelation 11:7-10. Is not an event that remains yet to be fulfilled. -- To this end, I would propose the following things to consideration.
1. The time wherein the witnesses be dead in the streets of the great city, doubtless, signifies the time wherein the true church of Christ is lowest of all, most of all prevailed against by antichrist, and nearest to an utter extinction; the time wherein there is left the least visibility of the church of Christ yet subsisting in the world, least remains of any thing appertaining religion, whence a revival of it can be expected, and wherein all means of it are most abolished, and the state of the church is in all respects furthest from any hopes of its ever flourishing again. For before this, the witnesses prophesy in sackcloth; but now they are dead: before this, they were kept low indeed, yet there was life, and power to bring plagues on their enemies, and so much of true religion left, as to be a continual torment to them. But now their enemies rejoice and feast, have a general public triumph, as having obtained a full victory over them. They have now entirely extirpated them, are completely delivered from them, and from all that might give them any fear of being troubled with them any more. This time, wherever it be fixed, doubtless, is the time, not only wherein fewest professors of the true religion are left in the world; but a time wherein the truth shall be farthest out of sight, and out of reach, and most forgotten; wherein there are left fewest beams of light, or traces of truth, fewest means of information, and opportunities of coming to the knowledge of the truth, and so a time of the most barbarous ignorance, most destitute of all history, monuments, and memory of things appertaining to true religion, or things the knowledge of which hath any tendency to bring truth again to light; and most destitute of learning, study, and inquiry.
Now, if we consider the present state of mankind, is it credible that a time will yet come, exceeding, in these respects, all times before the reformation? And that such a time will come before the fall of antichrist, unless we set that at a much greater distance, than the farthest that any have yet supposed? It is next to impossible, that such a change should be brought about in so short a time: it cannot be without a miracle. In order to it, not only must the popish nations so prevail, as utterly to extirpate the protestant religion through the earth; but must do many other things, far more impossible for them to effect, in order to cover the world with so gross and confirmed a darkness, and to bury all light and truth in so deep an oblivion, and so far out of all means and hopes of a revival. And not only must a vast change be made in the protestant world, but the popish nations moist be strangely metamorphosed; and they themselves must be terribly persecuted by some other power, in order to bring them to such a change: nor would persecution without extirpation be sufficient for it. If there should be another universal deluge, it might be sufficient to bring things to such a pass; provided a few ignorant barbarous persons only were preserved in an ark: and it would require some catastrophe not much short of this to effect it.
2. At the reformation, in the days of Luther, Calvin and others their contemporaries, the threatened destruction of antichrist, the dreadful enemy that had long oppressed and worn out the saints, was begun. Nor was it a small beginning; for antichrist hath fallen, at least half-way to the ground, from that height of power and grandeur he was in before. Then began the vials of God's wrath to be poured out on the throne of the beast, to the great shaking of its foundations, and diminution of its extent; so that the pope lost near half of his former dominions: and as to degree of authority and influence over what is left, he is not possessed of what he had before. God now at length, in answer to the long continued cries of his people, awakened as one out of sleep, and began to deliver his church from her exceeding low state, under the great oppression of this grand enemy, and to restore her from her exile and bondage in the spiritual Babylon and Egypt. It its not agreeable to the analogy of God's dispensations that after this he should desert his people, hide himself from them even more than before, leave them more than ever in the hands of their enemy, and is it credible that all this advantage of the church against antichrist should be entirely given up and lost, his power and tyranny be more confirmed, the church more entirely subdued than ever before, and further from all help and means of recovery? This is not God's way of dealing with his people, or with their enemies. His work of salvation is perfect: when he has begun such a work he will carry it on: when he once causes the day of deliverance to dawn to his people, after such a long night of dismal darkness, he will not extinguish the light, and cause them to return again to midnight darkness. When he has begun to enkindle the blessed fire, he will not quench the smoking flax, till he hath brought forth judgment unto victory. When once the church, after her long and sore travail, has brought forth her man-child, and wrought some deliverance, her enemies shall never be able to destroy this child, though an infant; but it shall ascend up to heaven, and be set on high out of their reach.
The destruction that God often foretold and threatened to ancient Babylon (which is often referred to in the revelation, as a great type of the antichristian church) was gradually accomplished, by various steps at a great distance of time one from another. It was begun in the conquest of Cyrus; and was further accomplished by Darius, about eighteen years after, by a yet greater destruction, wherein it was brought much nearer to utter desolation; but it was about two hundred and twenty-three years after this, before the ruin of it was perfected, and the prophecies against it fully accomplished, in its being made an utter and perpetual desolation, without any human inhabitant, becoming the dwelling-place for owls, dragons, and other doleful creatures. But yet when God had once begun to destroy her, he went on till he finished, and never suffered her any more to recover and establish her former empire. So the restitution of the Jewish church, after the Babylonish captivity, was by various steps; there were several times of return of the Jews from captivity, and several distinct decrees of the Persian emperors, for restoring and rebuilding Jerusalem, and reestablishing, the Jewish church and state. It was also done in turbulent times; there were great interruptions, checks, and violent oppositions, and times wherein the enemy did much prevail. But yet when God had once begun the work, he also made an end; he never suffered the enemies of the Jews to bring Jerusalem to such a state of desolation as it had been in before, till the promised restoration was complete. Again, the deliverance of God's church from the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes, (another known type of antichrist,) was gradual; they were first assisted a little by the Maccabees; afterwards, the promised deliverance was completed in the recovery of Jerusalem, the restoration of the temple, the miserable end of Antiochus, and the consequent more full deliverance of the whole land. But after God once began to appear for the help of his church in that instance, though it had seemed dead and past all hope, he never suffered Antiochus to prevail to that degree again. The utmost strength of this great monarch was used, from time to time, in order to it, and his vast empire was engaged against a handful that opposed them; yet God never forsook the work of his own hands; when he had begun to deliver his people, he also made an end. And so Haman, that proud and inveterate enemy of the Jews, who thought to extirpate the whole nation, (who also was probably another type of antichrist,) when he began to fall before Esther and Mordecai, never stayed, till his ruin and the church's deliverance were complete; Haman's wife speaks of it as an argument of his approaching inevitable full destruction, that he "had begun to fall," Esther 6:16.
3. If antichristian tyranny and darkness should hereafter so prevail against the protestant church, -- the true religion an every thing appertaining to it -- as to bring things to the pass fore-mentioned, this would not so properly answer the prophecy of slaying the two witnesses; for doubtless, one reason why they are called two witnesses, is, that the number of witnesses for the truth was (though sufficient yet) very small. This was remarkably the case in the dark times of popery; but since the reformation, the number of those appearing on the side of true religion has not been so small. The visible church of Christ has been vastly large, in comparison of what it was before. The number of protestants has sometimes been thought nearly equal to that of the papists; and, doubtless, the number of true saints has been far greater than before.
4. It seems to be signified in prophecy, which after the reformation antichrist should never prevail against the church of Christ any more, as he had done before. I cannot but think, that whoever reads and even considers what the learned Mr. Lowman has written on the five first vials, (Revelation 16.) In his late exposition on the Revelation, must think it to be very manifest, that what is said (verse 10.) of the pouring out of the fifth vial on the throw of the beast (for so it is in the original) is a prophecy of the reformation. Then the vial of God's wrath was poured out on the throne of the beast, i.e. according to the language of Scripture, on his authority and dominion, greatly to weaken and diminish it, both in extent and degree. But when this is represented in the prophecy, then it is added, "and his kingdom was full of darkness, and they gnawed their tongues for pain." If we consider what is commonly intended by similar phrases in the Scripture, I think we shall be naturally, and as it were necessarily, led to understand those words thus: their policy, by which heretofore they have prevailed, shall now fail them: their authority shall be weakened, their dominion greatly diminished, and all their subtlety shall not avail them to support the throne of the beast, or even again to extend his authority so far as it had been before extended, and to recover what is lost. All their crafty devices to this end shall be attended with vexatious, tormenting disappointment; they who have the management of the beast's kingdom, shall henceforward grope as in the dark, and stumble, and be confounded in their purposes, plots, and enterprises. Formerly their policy was greatly successful, as a light to guide them to their ends; but now their kingdom shall be full of darkness, and their wisdom shall fail them in all their devices to subdue the church of God.
The Scripture takes notice of the great policy and subtlety of the powers that support this kingdom, Daniel 7:8. "And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man." So it is said of Antiochus Epiphanes, that great type of antichrist, Daniel 8:23. "A king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up." Verse 25. "And through his policy also, shall he cause craft to prosper in his hand." This understanding and policy is the light of this kingdom, as true wisdom is the light of the spiritual Jerusalem; and therefore, when the fight fails then may the kingdom of this spiritual Egypt be said to be fill of darkness. God henceforward will defend his people from these mystical Egyptians, as he defended Israel of old from Pharaoh and his host, when pursuing after them, by placing a cloud and darkness in their way, and so not suffering them to come nigh. He will protect his church from the men of that city that is spiritually called Sodom, as Lot's house, wherein were the angels, was defended from the men of Sodom, by their being smitten with darkness or blindness, so that they wearied themselves to find the door and as God defended the city in which was Elishia, the prophet and witness of the Lord, from the Syrians, when they compassed it about with horses and chariots, and a great host, to apprehend him, by smiting them with blindness The Scripture teaches us, that God is wont in this way to defend his church and people Mom their crafty and powerful enemies Job 5:11, etc. "To set up on high those that be low, that those which mourn may be exalted to safety: he disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise: be taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the forward is carried headlong: they meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noon-day as in the night, but he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty." (See also Psalm 35:4, 6.) On account of such defence of God's protestant church, with the disappointment and confusion of all the subtle devices deep-laid schemes, and furious attempts of their antichristian enemies, to root them out, while they see them still maintaining their ground, in spite of all they do, it makes them as it were gnash their teeth, and bite their tongues for mere rage and vexation agreeably to Psalm cxxii. 9, 10. "His righteousness endureth for ever, his horn shall be exalted with honour: the wicked shall see it and be grieved, and gnash with his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked shall perish."
Hitherto this prophecy has been very signally fulfilled since the reformation, the kingdom of antichrist has been remarkably filled with darkness in this respect. Innumerable have been the crafty devices and great attempts of the church of Rome, wherein they have exerted their utmost policy and power; to recover their lost dominions, and again to subjugate the protestant nations -- the northern heresy, as they call it. They have wearied themselves in these endeavours for more than two hundred years past; but have hitherto been disappointed, and have often been strangely confounded. When their matters seemed to be brought to a degree of ripeness, and they triumphed as though their point was gained, their joy and triumph have suddenly turned into vexation and torment. How many have been their politic and powerful attempts against the protestant interest in our nation, in particular! And how wonderfully has God disappointed them from time to time! And as God has hitherto so remarkably fulfilled his word in defending his Protestant church from antichrist, so I think we have ground to trust in him, that he will defend it to the end.
5. The hypothesis of those who suppose that the slaying of the witnesses yet remains to be fulfilled, makes the prophecies of the Revelation to be inconsistent one with another. According to their hypothesis, that battle (Revelation 11:7.) wherein the beast makes war with the witnesses, overcomes, and kills them, is the last and greatest conflict between antichrist and the church of Christ, which is to precede the utter overthrow of the antichristian kingdom. And they must suppose so, for they suppose that immediately after the sufferings the church shalt endure in that war, she shall arise, and as it were ascend into hearer; i.e. as they interpret it, the church shall be directly advanced to her latter-day rest, prosperity, and glory. And consequently, this conflict must be the same with that great battle between antichrist and the church, described Chapter 16:13, to the end, and more largely Chapter 19:11, to the end. For that which is described in these places, is most indisputably the greatest and last conflict between the church and her antichristian enemies, on which the utter downfall of antichrist, and the church's advancement to her latter-day glory, shall be immediately consequent. And so the earthquake that attends the resurrection of the witnesses, Chapter 11:13. must be the same with that great earthquake described, Chapter 16:18. And the falling of the tenth part of the city must be the same with that terrible and utter destruction of antichrist's kingdom, Chapter 16:17, to the end.
But these things cannot be. The battle, Chapter 11:7. cannot be the same with that last and great battle between the church and antichrist, described, Chapter 16 and 19:For the things that are said of one and the other, and their issue, are in no wise consistent. In that battle, Chapter 11 the church of God conflicts with her enemies in sorrow, sackcloth, and blood: but in the other the matter is represented exceedingly otherwise the church goes forth to fight with antichrist, not in sackcloth and blood, but clothed In white raiment, Christ himself before them, as their captain, going forth in great pomp and magnificence, upon a "white horse, and on his head many crowns, and on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings and Lord of Lords." And the saints who follow so glorious a leader to this great battle, follow him on "white horses clothed in fine linen, white and clean," in garments of strength, joy, glory, and triumph; in the same kind of raiment that the saints appear in, when they are represented as triumphing with Christ, with palms in their hands, Chapter 7:9. And the issue of the latter of these conflicts is quite the reverse of tile former. In the battle, Chapter 11:7. "The beast makes war with the witnesses and overcomes them, and kills them: "the same is foretold, Daniel 7:21. "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them." And Revelation 12:7. "And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them." But in the issue of that last and great battle, which the church shall have with her antichristian enemies, the church shall OVERCOME THEM, AND KILL THEM; Revelation 17:14. "These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them; for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they that are with him, are called, and chosen, and faithful.
In the conflict that the beast shall have with the witnessing, the "beast kills them, and their dead bodies lie unburied;" as though they were to be meat for the beasts of the earth, and fowls of heaven: but in the last battle, it is represented that Christ and his church "shall slay their enemies, and give their dead bodies to be meat for the fowls of heaven." (Chapter 19:17, etc.) There is no appearance, in the descriptions given of that last great battle, of any advantages gained In it by the enemies of the church, before they themselves are overcome; but all appearance of the contrary. The descriptions in the 16th and 19th chapters of the Revelation will by means allow of such an advantage, as overcoming God's people, and slaying them; their lying dead for some time, and unburied, that their dead bodies may be for their enemies to abuse, trample on, and make sport with. In Chapter 16:we read of their being gathered together against the church, a mighty host, into the place called Armageddon; and then the first thing we hear of, is, the pouring out of the seventh vial of God's wrath, and a voice saying, "It is done." And so in the 19th Chapter we have an account of the "beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, being gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army." And then the next thing we hear of, is, that the "beast is taken, and with him the false prophet; and that these are both cast alive into the lake of fire and that the remnant of their vast army are slain, and all the fowls filled with their flesh." The issue of the conflict of the beast with the witnesses, in the triumph of the church's enemies over God's people, looking on them as entirely vanquished, and their interest utterly ruined past all recovery, "they that dwell on the earth shall see the dead bodies of the saints lying in the streets of the great city, and shall rejoice over them and make merry, and send gifts one to another." But the issue of that great and last battle is quite the reverse, it is the church's triumph over her enemies, as being utterly and for ever destroyed."
Upon the whole, I think there appears to be no reason from the prophecy concerning the two witnesses, Revelation 11 to expect any such general and terrible destruction of the church of Christ, before the utter downfall of antichrist, as some have supposed; but good reason to determine the contrary. It is true, there is abundant evidence in Scripture, that there is yet remaining a mighty conflict between the church and her enemies. -- the most violent struggle of Satan and his adherents in opposition to true religion, and the most general commotion that ever was in the world, since the foundation of it to that time -- and many particular Chritstians may suffer hard things in this conflict. But in the general, Satan and antichrist shall not get the victory, nor greatly prevail; on the contrary, they shall be entirely conquered, and utterly overthrown, in this great battle. So that I hope this prophecy of the slaying of the witness, will not stand in the way of a compliance with the proposal made to us in the Memorial, as a prevalent objection and discouragement.
That the fall of antichrist is at a great distance, answered.
A VERY learned and ingenious expositor of the Revelation, Mr. Lowman, sets the fall of antichrist, and consequently the coming of Christ's kingdom, at a great distance; supposing that the twelve hundred and sixty years of antichrist's reign did not begin till the year seven hundred and fifty-six; and consequently, that it will not end till after the year two thousand; and this opinion he confirms by a great variety of arguments.
If this objection be allowed to be valid, and that which ought to determine persons in an affair of this nature, in connexion with the duty before proved, then the following thing must be supposed; viz. That it is the will of God his people be much in prayer for this event; and particularly, that a little before its accomplishment his people be earnestly seeking, and importunately crying to God for it; but yet that it was God's design, before this time of, extraordinary prayer and importunity, his church should understand precisely when the appointed time should be: and that accordingly he has now actually brought the fixed time to light, by means of Mr. Lowman. But is it reasonable to suppose, that this should be God's manner of dealing with his church; first to make known to them the precise time which he has unalterable fixed for showing this mercy to Zion, and then make it the duty of his church, in an extraordinary manner, to be by prayer inquiring of him concerning it, and saying, "How long, Lord!" that he would come quickly, hide himself no longer, have mercy upon Zion, awake as one out of sleep, openly manifest himself, and make bare his holy arm for the salvation of his people? That "they who make mention of the Lord should not keep silence, nor give him any rest till he establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth?" And that the church should then say to Christ, "Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart on the mountain of spices?"
It may be many ways for the comfort and benefit of God's church in her afflicted state, to know that the reign of antichrist is to be no more than one thousand two hundred and sixty years, and some things in general may be argued concerning the approach of it, when it is near: as the Jews could argue the approach of Christ's first coming, from Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks though they knew not precisely when that seventy weeks would end. But it is not reasonable to expect that God should make known to us beforehand the precise time of Christ's coming in his kingdom. The disciples desired to know this, and manifested their desire to their Lord, but he told them plainly, that "it was not for them to know the times and seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power," (Acts 1:6, 7.) and there is no reason to think that it is any more for us than for them; or for Christ's disciples in these days any more than for his apostles in those days. God makes it the duty of his church to be importunately praying for it, and praying that it may come speedily; and not only to be praying for it but to be seeking for it, in the use of proper means; endeavouring that religion may now revive every where, and, Satan's kingdom be overthrown; and always to be waiting for it, being in a constant preparation for it, as servants that wait for the coming of their Lord, or virgins for the coming of the bridegroom, not knowing at what hour he will come. But God's making known beforehand the precise time of his coming, does not well consist with these things.
It is the revealed will of God, that he should be inquired of by his people, by extraordinary prayer, concerning this great mercy, to do it for them, before it he fulfilled. And if any suppose, that it is now found out precisely when the time is to be, and (the time being at a considerable distance) that now is not a proper season to begin this extraordinary prayers I would, on this supposition, ask, When we shall begin? How long before the fixed and known time of the bestowment of this mercy comes, shall we begin to cry earnestly to God that this mercy may come, and that Christ would make haste and be like a roe, etc. For us to delay, supposing that we know the time to be far off, is not agreeable to the language of God's people in my text, "Come, let us go speedily, and pray before the Lord, and seek the Lord of hosts."
I acknowledge that Mr. Lowman's Exposition of the Revelation is, on many accounts, excellently written, giving great light into some parts of that prophecy; and especially his interpretation of the five first vials; yet his opinion with respect to the time, times, and half a time of antichrist's reign, is the less to be regarded, because it is expressly declared it should be sealed up and hid, and not known till the timbre of the end of this period. Daniel, in the last chapter of his prophecy, gives us an account, how the angel told him of a future time of great trouble and affliction to the church of God, and then said to him, verse 4. "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end." And then the prophet proceeds to give an account of a vision he had of one earnestly inquiring of the angel of the Lord how long it would be to the end of this remarkable time of the church's trouble, saying, "How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?" verse 5, 6. The answer was, that "it should be for a time, times, and an half," and that when so long a time was past, then this wonderful affliction and scattering of the holy people should be finished, verse 7. But then Daniel tells us, in the next verse, that "he heard, but he understood not," and said, "O. my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?" He did not understand that general and mystical answer, that those things should have an end at the end of "a time, times, and an half;" he did not know by it, when this period would have an end: and therefore he inquires more particularly what the time of the end was. But the angel replies, verse 9. "Go thy way, Daniel, the words are closed and sealed up, till the time of the end." I do not know what could have been more express. The angel gently rebukes this over-inquisitiveness of Daniel, very much as Christ did a like inquisitiveness of the disciples concerning the same matter, when he said to them, "It is not for you to know the times and seasons, that the Father hath put in his own power."
I think there can be no doubt but that this space of the church's great trouble, about the end of which Daniel inquires, is the same with what is spoken of, Chapter 7:25. and
Revelation 12:14. as the time of antichrist's reign, and the church's being in the wilderness; and not merely the time of the church's troubles by Antiochus Epiphanes. But we see, when Daniel has a mind to know particularly when this time would come to an end, he is bid to go away, and rest contented in ignorance of this matter: for, says the man clothed in linen, the words are closed up, and sealed, till the time of the end. That is, very plainly, the matter that you inquire about, shall not be known, but kept a great secret, till the time of the end actually comes, and all attempts to find it out before shall be in vain. And therefore when a particular divine appears, who thinks he has found it out and has unsealed this matter, we may well think he is mistaken.
Though it is not for us to know the precise time of the fall of antichrist, yet I humbly conceive that we have no reason to suppose the event principally intended in the prophecies of antichrist's destruction to be at so great a distance, as Mr. Lowman places it; but have reason to think it to be much nearer. Not that I would set up myself as a person of equal judgment with Mr. Lowman in matters of this nature. As he differs from most other approved expositors of the Apocalypse in this matter; so I hope it will not appear vanity and presumption in me to differ from this particular expositor, and to agree with the greater number. And since his opinion stands so much in the way of that great and important affair, to promote which is the very end of this whole discourse, I hope it will not look as though I affected to appear considerable among the interpreters of prophecy, and as a person or skill in these mysterious matters, when I offer some reasons against Mr. Lowman's opinion. It is surely great pity that it should be received as a thing clear and abundantly confirmed, that the glorious day of antichrist's fall is at so great a distance, so directly tending to discourse all earnest endeavours after its speedy accomplishment, unless there be good and plain ground for it. I would therefore offer some things to consideration, which I think may justly make us look upon the opinion of this learned interpreter not so indubitable, as to hinder our praying and hoping for its being fulfilled much sooner.
The period of antichrists reign, as this author has fixed it, seems to be the main point insisted on in his Exposition of the Revelation; which he supposes a great many things in the scheme of prophecies delivered in that book concur to establish. But there are several things in that scheme, which appear to me justly liable to exception.
Whereas it is represented, Revelation 17:10, 11. that there are seven different successive heads of the beast; that five were past, and another was to come, and to continue a short space, that might on some accounts be reckoned a seventh; that antichrist was to follow next after this, as the eighth; but yet the foregoing not being properly one of the heads of the beast, he was properly the seventh. Mr. Lowman does not think with others, that by the seventh that was to continue a short space, which would not be properly one of the heads of the beast, is meant Constantine, and the other Christian emperors; for he thinks they are reckoned as properly belonging to the sixth head of the beast; but that hereby is intended the government up Rome under the Gothic princes, and the exarchate of Ravenna, after the imperial form of government in Rome ceased in Augustulus, till the pope was invested with his temporal dominion, called St. Peter's patrimony, by Pepin king of France, in the year 756. And he supposes, that the wounding of One of the heads of the beast with a sword of death, Chapter 13:3-14. was not fulfilled in the destruction of the heathen empire, and the giving of the imperial power unto Christians, but in the destruction of the imperial form of government by the sword of the Goths, in the time of Augustulus. But it seems to me to be very unlikely, that the Spirit of God should reckon Constantine and the Christian emperors as proper members, and belonging to one of the heads of that monstrous wild and cruel beast, compared to a leopard, a bear, and a devouring lion, that had a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and that rules by the power and authority of the dragon, or the devil, which beast is represented in this 17th chapter, as full of names of blasphemy, and of a bloody colour, denoting his cruelty in persecuting the christian church. For Constantine, instead of this, was a member of the christian church, set by God in the most eminent station in his church; and was honoured, above all other princes that ever had been in the world as the great protector of his church, and her deliverer from the persecuting power of that cruel scarlet-coloured beast Mr. Lowman himself styles him a christian prince, and protector of the christian religion. God is very careful not to reckon his own people among the Gentiles, the visible subjects of Satan,
"The people shall not be reckoned among the nations." (Numbers 23:9)
If they happen to be among them, he will be careful to set a mark upon them, as a note of distinction, Revelation 7:3, etc. when God is reckoning up his own people, he leaves out those that have been noted for idolatry. As among the tribes that were sealed, Revelation 8 those idolatrous tribes of Ephraim and Dan are left out, and in the genealogy of Christ Matthew 1 those princes that were chiefly noted for idolatry are left out. Much more would God be careful not to reckon his own people, especially such christians as have been the most eminent instruments of overthrowing idolatry, amongst idolaters: and as members and heads of that kingdom that is noted in Scripture as the most notorious and infamous of all, for abominable idolatry, opposition and cruelty to the true worshippers of God. And especially not to reckon them as properly belonging to one of those seven heads of this monarchy, of which very heads it is particularly noted that they had on them the names of blasphemy; (Revelation 13:1.) which Mr. Lowman himself supposes to signify idolatry.
It was therefore worthy of God, agreeable to his manner, and might well be expected, that when he was reckoning up the several successive heads of this beast, and Constantine and his successors came in the way, and there was occasion to mention them, to set a mark, or note of distinction, on them, signifying that they did not properly belong to the beast, nor were to be reckoned as belonging to the heads; and therefore are to be skipped over in the reckoning; and antichrist, though the eighth head of the Roman empire, is to be reckoned the seventh head of the beast. This appears to me abundantly the most just and natural interpretation of Revelation 17:10, 11. It is reasonable to suppose, that God would take care to make such a note in this prophetical description of this dreadful beast, and not by any means to reckon Constantine as belonging properly to him. -- If we reckon Constantine as a member of this beast having seven heads and ten horns, described Chapter 17 and as properly one of his heads then he was also properly a member of the great red dragon with seven heads and ten home, that warred with the woman, Chapter 12. -- For the seven heads and ten horns of that dragon are plainly the same with the seven heads and ten horns of the beast. So that this makes Constantine a visible member of the devil; for we are told expressly of that dragon, verse 9. that he was that old serpent, called the devil and Satan. And to suppose that Constantine is reckoned as belonging to one of the heads of that dragon, is to make these prophecies inconsistent with themselves. For in the 12th chapter, we have represented a war between the dragon and the woman clothed with the sun, which woman as all agree, is the church, but Constantine, as all do also agree, belonged to the woman was a member of the christian church, and was on that side in the war against the dragon; yea, was the main instrument of that great victor obtained over the dragon (verse 9-12.) What an inconsistency therefore is it, to suppose that he was at the same time a member and head of that very dragon which fought with the woman, and yet which Constantine himself fought with, overcame, and gloriously triumphed over! It is not therefore to be wondered at, that God was careful to distinguish Constantine from the proper heads of the beast: it would have been a wonder if he had not. God seems to have been careful to distinguish him, not only in his word, but in his providence, by so ordering it that this Christian emperor should be removed from Rome, the city which God had given up to the seat of the power of the beast and of its heads, and that he should have the seat of his empire elsewhere.
Constantine was the instrument of giving a mortal wound to the heathen Roman empire; and giving it a mortal wound in its head, viz. the heathen emperors then reigning, Maxentius and Licinius. But more eminently was this glorious change in the empire owing to the power of God's word, the prevalence of the glorious gospel, by which Constantine himself was converted, and so became the instrument of the overthrow of the heathen empire in the east and west. The change that was then brought to pass is represented as the destruction of the heathen empire, or the old heathen world, and therefore seems to be compared to that dissolution of heaven and earth that shall be at the Day of Judgment. (Revelation 6:12, etc.) And therefore well might the heathen empire under the head which was then reigning, be represented as wounded to death, (Chapter 13:3.) It is much more likely, that the wound the beast had by a sword in his head, (verse 14.) was the wound the heathen empire had in its head by that sword which (Chapter 1:16. and 19:15.) proceeds out of the mouth of Christ, than the wound that was given to the Christians empire and emperor by the sword of the heathen Goths. It is most likely that this deadly wound was by that sword with which Michael made war with him, and overcame him, and cast him to the earth, (Chapter 12:9.) and that the deadly wound was given him at that very time. It is most likely, that the sword which have him this deadly wound, after which he strangely revived as though he rose from the dead, was the same sword with that which shall at last utterly destroy him, so that he shall never rise more (Chapter 19:15, 19, 20, 21.) This wounding of the head of the beast by the destruction of the heathen empire, and converse of the emperor to the Christian truth, was a glorious event indeed of divine providence, worthy to be so much spoken of in prophecy. -- It is natural to suppose, that the mortal wounding of the head of that savage cruel beast, represented as constantly at war with the woman, and persecuting the church of Christ, should be some relief to the Christian church; but on the contrary, that wounding to death, that Mr. Lowman speaks of, was the victory of the enemies of the Christian church over her, and the wound received from them.
It is said of that head of the empire that shall be next after the sixth head, and next before antichrist, and that is not reckoned as properly one of the number of the heads of the beast, that "when it comes, it shall continue a short space." Chapter 17:10. By which we may understand, at least, that it shall be one of the shortest; in its continuance, of the successive heads. But the government seated at Ravenna, in the hands of the Goths, or of the deputies of the Greek emperors, (which Mr. Lowman supposes to be meant by the head,) continued, as Mr. Lowman himself takes notice, very near three hundred years. And if so, its continuance was one of the longest of the heads mentioned.
Besides, if the government Rome was under, from the time that Augstulus abdicated to the time when the pope was confirmed in his temporal dominion, was meant by the seventh head that was to be between the imperial head and the papal, there would doubtless have been two different heads mentioned, instead of one, between the emperor and the pope; viz. First, the Gothic princes, who reigned near one hundred years. Secondly, the exarchs of Ravenna, who governed for about one hundred and eighty-five years. The Gothic kingdom was much more properly a distinct government from the imperial, than the exarchate of Ravenna. For during the exarchate, Rome was under the government of the emperor, as much as it was in Constantine's time.
In Revelations 17:12. it is said, ten horns are ten kings, which are to receive power as kings one hour with the beast," or (as Mr. Lowman says it ought to have been translated) the same hour or point of time with the beast. This will not allow the time when antichrist first receives power as king to be so late as Mr. Lowman supposes. This division of the empire into many kingdoms, denoted by the number ten, was about the year four hundred and fifty-six, after Genesericus had taken the City of Rome: but Mr. Lowman places the beginning of the reign of antichrist in the year seven hundred and fifty-six, which is three hundred years later. I know, such an expression as in one hour, or the same hour; may allow of some latitude; but surely not such a latitude as this. This is a much longer time than it was from the time of the vision to Constantine; much longer than the space of all the first six seals; longer than it was from Christ's ascension to Constantine; and near as long as the time of all the reigns of the heathen emperors put together, from Augustus Cersar to Constantine. An hour is every where else in this book used to signify a very short time; as may be seen in places cited in the marking. And the expression, "The same hour," every where else in the Bible, intends near the same point of time. The phrase fine hour is used several times in the next chapter, speaking of the downfall of antichrist; and in each evidently signifies a very short space of time. And there is no reason why we should not understand the same phrase in the same sense, when used here concerning the rise of antichrists.
However, I do not deny that the time when Mr. Lowman supposes the reign of the beast began, even the, time when Pepin confirmed to the pope his temporal dominions in Italy, was a time of the great increase and advancement of the power of antichrist in the world, and a notable epoch. And if I may be allowed humbly to offer what appears to me to he the truth with relation to the rise and fall of antichrist; it is this: -- As the power of antichrist, and the corruption of the apostate church, rose not at once, but by SEVERAL NOTABLE STEPS and degrees; so it will IN THE LIKE MANNER FALL: and, that DIVERS STEPS and SEASONS OF DESTRUCTI0N to the spiritual Babylon, and revival of the true church, are prophesied of under ONE. And yet it may be true, that there is some particular which prevails above all others in the intention of the prophecy, some remarkable season of the destruction of the church Rome, the papal power and corruption, and advancement of true religion.
There are, as I apprehend, good reasons to hope, that the work of God's Holy Spirit which in its progress will overthrow the kingdom of antichrist, and in its issue destroy Satan's visible kingdom on earth, will begin in a like time. -- The prophecy of the 6th vial, (Revelation 16:12-16.) if we take it in its connexion with the other vials, and consider those providential events by which the preceding vials have manifestly been fulfilled, I humbly conceive, affords just ground for such a hope.
It is very plain, from this whole chapter, as also the preceding and following, that all these seven vials are vials of God's wrath on antichrist; one is not poured out on the Jew, another on the Turks, another on pagans, another on the church of Rome, but they all signify God's successive judgments or plagues on the beast and his kingdom, which is in this chapter, and almost every where in this book, called GREAT BABYLON. And therefore undoubtedly, when it is said, "The sixth angel poured out his vial on the river Euphrates, and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared," by the river Euphrates is meant something some we, appertaining to this mystical Babylon as the river Euphrates appertained to the literal Babylon. And it is very manifest, that in the prophecy of this vial there is an allusion to that by which the way was prepared for the destination of Babylon by Cyrus. This was done by turning the channel of the rider Euphrates, which ran through the midst of the city. Hereby the way of the kings of the east, the princes of Media and Persia, was prepared to come in, under the walls of the city, at each end, and to destroy it; as they did that night wherein Daniel interpreted the hand-writing on the wall, against Belshazzar, Daniel 5:30.
The prophecies of Babylon's destruction, from time to time, take notice of this way of destroying her, by drying up the waters of the river Euphrates, to prepare the way for her enemies; Isaiah 44:27, 28. "That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers; that saith of Cyrus, He is my servant, and shall perform all my pleasure." Jeremiah 51:31, 32 "One post shall run to meet another, to show the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end, and that the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burnt with fire, and the men of war are affrighted." And verse 36. "I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry." The Medes and Persains, the people that destroyed Babylon, dwelt to the eastward of Babylon, and are spoken of as coming from the east to her destruction;
"Calling a ravenous bird from the east; the man that executeth my counsel, from a far country." (Isaiah 46:11)
And the princes that joined with this ravenous bird from the east, in this affair of destroying Babylon, are called kings, Jeremiah 51:11. "The Lord hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes; for his device is against Babylon to destroy it." Verse 28. "Prepare against her the nations, with the kings of the Medes, the captains thereof, and the rulers thereof." -- The drying of the channel of the river Euphrates, to prepare the way for these kings and captains of the east, to enter into that city, under its high walls, was the last thing done by the besiegers of Babylon, before her actual destruction. In like manner, the sixth is the last vial but one of God's wrath on the mystical Babylon; and the effect of it is the drying up of the channel, the last thing done against it before its actual destruction by the seventh vial. This opens the way for those who fight in a spiritual war against it, speedily to bring on its ruin.
Hence I think it may without dispute be determined, that by the river Euphrates in the prophecy of this vial, is meant something appertaining to the mystical Babylon, or the antichristian church and kingdom, that serves it, in a way answerable to that in which the river Euphrates served old Babylon, and the removal of which will in like manner prepare the way for the enemies to destroy her. And therefore what we have to do in the first place, in order to find out what is intended by the river Euphrates fit this prophecy, is to consider how the literal Euphrates served old Babylon. And it may be noted, that Euphrates was of remarkable benefit to that city in two respects: it served the city as a supply, it was let through the midst of the city by an artificial canal, and ran through the midst of the palace of the king of Babylon, that part of his palace called the old palace, standing on one side, and the other part called the new palace, on the other; with communications from one part to another, above the waters, by a bridge, and under the waters, by a vaulted or arched passage; that the city, and especially the palace, might be plentifully supplied with water. Another way that the waters of Euphrates served Babylon, was as an impediment and obstacle in the way of its enemies, to hinder their access to destroy it. For there was a cast moat round the city, without the walls, of prodigious width and depth, filled with the water of the river, to hinder the access of her besiegers: and at each end of the city, the river served instead of walls. And therefore when Cyrus had dried up the river, the moat was emptied, and the channel of the river under the walls left dry; and so his way was prepared.
Therefore it is natural to suppose, that by drying up the waters of the river Euphrates, in the prophecy of the destruction of the new Babylon, to prepare the way of her enemies, is meant the drying up her incomes and supplies; and the removal of those things which hitherto have been the chief obstacles in the way of those who in this book are represented as at war with her, and seeking her destruction; (Revelation 19:11, to the end, and Chapter 12:7.) those things which have hindered their progress and success, or have been the chief impediments in the way of the protestant religion. The first thing is the drying of the streams of wealth, the temporal supplies, revenues, and vast incomes of the Romish church, and the riches of the popish dominions. Waters in scripture language very often signifnify provision and supplies both temporal and spiritual. The temporal supplies of a people are very often in Scripture called waters; as Isaiah 5:13.
"Therefore my people is gone into captivity, and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst,"
i.e. deprived of the supports and supplies of life. And the drying up of the waters of a city or kingdom, is often used in scripture prophecy for depriving them of their wealth as the Scripture explains itself, Hosea 13:15. "His spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up; he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels." Isaiah 15:6, 7. "The waters of Nimrim shall be desolate, for the hay is withered; the grass faileth; there is no green thing. Therefore the abundance they have gotten, and that which they have laid up, shall they carry away to the brook of the willows." The brook of the willows seems to refer to the waters of Assyria or Chaldea, whose streams abounded with willows. (Compare Psalm 137:2.) So that the carrying away of the treasures of Moab, and the adding of them to the treasures of Assyria, is here represented by the I figure of turning away the waters Nimrim from the country of Moab, and adding them to the waters of Assyria, as the prophecy explains itself. Yea, even in the prophecies of the destruction of Babylon itself, the depriving her of her treasures, seems to be one thing intended by the drying up of her caters. This seems manifest by the words; of the prophecy in Jeremiah 1. 37, 38. " A sword is upon her treasures, and they shall be robbed; a drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up." Compared with Chapter 51:13. "O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures:" with verse 36. "I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry." The wealth, revenues, and vast incomes of the church of Rome, are the waters by which that Babylon has been nourished and supported, these are the waters which the popish clergy and members of the Romish hierarchy thirst after, and are continually drinking down, with insatiable appetite, and they are waters that have been flowing into that spiritual city like a great river; ecclesiastical persons possessing a very great part of the popish dominions. Accordingly, this Babylon is represented as vastly rich, in the prophecy of the Apocalypse, especially in the 17th and 18th chapters. These are especially the waters that supply the palace of the king of this new Babylon, viz. the pope; as the river Euphrates ran through the midst of the palace to the king of old Babylon. The revenues of the pope have been like waters of a great river, coming into his palace from innumerable fountains, and by innumerable lesser streams, coming from many various and distant countries.
This prophecy represents to us two cities very contrary the one to the other, viz. New Babylon and the New Jerusalem, and a river running through the midst of each. The New Jerusalem, which signifies the church of Christ especially in her best estate, is described as having "a river running through the midst of it." Revelation 22:1, 2. This river, as might easily be made most evident, by comparing this with abundance of other scriptures, undoubledly signifies the divine supplies; the rich and abundant spiritual incomes and provision of that holy city. Mr. Lowman, in his Exposition, says, It represents a content PROVISION for the comfortable and happy life of all the inhabitants of this city of God. And in his notes on the same place, he observes as follows: "Water, (says he,) as necessary to the support of life, and as it contributes in great cities especially in hot eastern countries, to the ornament of the place, and delight of the inhabitants, is a very proper representation of the enjoyment of all things, both for the support and pleasure of life." As the river that runs through the new Jerusalem, the church of Christ, refreshing that holy spiritual society, signifies their spiritual supplies to satisfy their spiritual thirst; so the river that runs through the new Babylon, the antichristian church, that wicked carnal society, signifies, according to the opposite character of the city; her worldly, carnal supplies, to satisfy their carnal desires and thirstings.
The new Jerusalem is called in this book the Paradise of God; and therefore is represented as having the tree of life growing in it, (Chapter 2:7. and 22:2.) And it being described, as though a river ran through the midst of it, there seems to be some allusion to the ancient paradise in likes, of which we are told that there ran a river through the midst of it to water it, (Genesis 2:10.) i.e. to supply the plants of it with nourishment. And this riser was this very same river Euphrates, which afterwards ran through Babylon. And in one and the other, it represented the rivers supplies of two opposite cities. In Eden, it represented life spiritual supplies and wealth of the true christian church, in her spiritual advancement and glory; (Revelation 22:1. 2.) In the other, it represented the outward carnal supplies of the false antichristian church, in her worldly pomp and vain glory, (Chapter 16:12.)
When the waters that supply this mystical Babylon come to be dried up in this sense, it will prepare the way for the enemies of antichristian corruption, that seek her overthrow. The wealth of the church of Rome, and of the powers that support it, is very much its defence. After the streams of her revenues and riches are dried up, or very greatly diminished, her walls will be a it were broken down, find she will become weak and defenceless, and exposed to easy ruin.
As the river Euphrates served the city Babylon for supply; so, as before observed, it served as an impediment or obstacle to hinder the access of its enemies: for there was a vast moat round the city, filled with the water of the river, which was left empty when Euphrates was dried up. And therefore we may suppose, that another thing meant by the effect of the sixth vial, is the removal of those things, which hitherto have been the chief obstacles to the progress of true religion, and the victory of the church of Christ over her enemies. These have been the corrupt doctrines and practices which have prevailed in protestant countries, the doubts and difficulties that attend many doctrines of the true religion, and the many divisions and contentions that subsist among protestants. The removal of those would wonderfully prepare the way for Christ and his armies to go forward and prevail against their enemies, in a glorious propagation of true religion. So that this vial, which is to prepare the way for Christ and his people, seems to have respect to that remarkable preparing of the way for Christ, by levelling mountains, exalting valleys drying, drying up rivers, and removing stumbling-blocks, which is often spoken of in the prophecies, as what shall next precede the church's latter-day glory, (as
Isaiah 42:13, etc.) "The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy as a man of war; he shall prevail against his enemies. -- I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools; and I will bring the blind by a way that they know not, and I will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight: these things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." (Chapter 40:3-5.) "Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God: every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." (Chapter 11:15, 16.) "And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea, and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams thereof, and make, men go over dryshod: and there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people which shall be left from Assyria, like as it was to Israel, in the day that he came out of the land of Egypt." (Chapter 57:14.) "Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people." And, (Chapter 62:10.) "Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people." (Zechariah 10:10-12.) "I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them. And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves of the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up; and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away: and I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith the Lord." And it is worthy to be remarked, that as Cyrus destroying Babylon, letting go God's captives from thence, and restoring Jerusalem, is certainly typical of Christ's destroying mystical Babylon, delivering his people from her tyranny, and gloriously building up the spiritual Jerusalem in the latter days, so God preparing Cyrus's way, by drying up the river Ephrates, is spoken to similar terms, to signify the preparing of Christ's way, when he shall come to accomplish the latter event. Thus God says concerning Cyrus, (Isaiah 45:2.) "I will go before thee, and make crooked places straight." And, (verse 13.) "I will direct, or make straight, (as it is in the margin,) all his ways." This is like Chapter 40:2, 4. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. -- The crooked things shall be made straight." (Chapter 42:16.) "I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." It is true, we do not know how long this vial may continue running, and so Christ's way preparing, before it is fully prepared: but yet, if there be reason to think the effect of this vial is begun, or is near, then there is reason also to think that the beginning of that great work of God's Spirit in the revival of religion, watch, before it is finished, will issue in antichrist's ruin, is not far off: For it is pretty manifest that the beginning of this work will accompany the sixth vial. For the gather together of the armies on both sides, on the side of Christ and antichrist, to that great that shall issue in the overthrow of the latter, will be under this vial; (compare Revelation 16:12, 13, 14 with Chapter 19:11, to the end.) And it is plain that Christ manifesting himself, wonderfully appearing, after long hiding himself, to plead his own and his people's cause, and riding forth against his enemies in a glorious manner -- and his people following him in pure linen, or the practice of righteousness and pure religion -- will be the alarm to antichtist, and cause him to gather that vast host to make the utmost opposition. But this alarm and gathering together is represented as being under the sixth vial. So that it will be a great revival, and a mighty progress of true religion under the sixth vial, eminently threatening the speedy and utter overthrow of Satan's kingdom on earth, that will so mightily rouse the old serpent to exert himself with such exceeding violence, in that greatest conflict and struggle that ever he had with Christ and the church, since the should stood.
All the seven vials bring terrible judgments upon antichrist, but there seems to be something distinguishing in the three last, the fifth, sixth. And seventh, viz. That they more directly tend to overthrow his kingdom; and accordingly, each of them is attended with a great reviving of religion. The fifth vial was attended with such a revival and reformation, as greatly weakened and diminished the throne or kingdom of the beast, and went far towards its ruin. It seems as though the sixth vial should he much more so; for it is the distinguishing note of this vial that it is the preparatory, which more than any other vial prepares the way for Christ's coming to destroy the kingdom of antichrist, and to set up his own kingdom in the world.
Besides, those things which belong to the preparation of Christ s way, so often represented by levelling mountains, drying up rivers, etc. viz. Unraveling intricacies, and removing difficulties attending, christian doctrines; distinguishing between true religion and its false appearances; detecting and exploring errors and corrupt principles; reforming the wicked lives of professors, which have been the chief stumbling-blocks and obstacles that have hitherto hindered the progress of true religion: these things are the proper work of the Spirit of God, promoting and advancing divine light and true piety, and can be the effect of nothing else. And that the beginning of that glorious work of God's Spirit, which shall finally bring on the church's latter-day glory, will accompany that other effect of this vial -- turning the streams of the wealth of the world, bringing its treasures, and the gains of its trade and navigation, into the true protestant church of Christ -- seems very manifest because this very effect is spoken of as that which shall be at the beginning of this glorious work. Isaiah 60:8, 9. "Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows? Surely the isles shall wait for me and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee." So that it is to be hoped, that before this effect, now probably begun, is at an end, the Spirit of God will so influence the hearts of the prostestants, that they will be disposed to devote to the service of God the silver and gold they take from their popish enemies, and the gains of their trade and navigation, both to the East and West Indies, so that their merchandise and hire shall be holiness to the Lord.
Agreeably to what has been supposed, that an extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit of God is to accompany this sixth vial; so the beginning of a work of extraordinary awakening has already attended the probable beginning of it, continued in one place or other for many years past: although it has been, in some places, mingled with enthusiasm, after the manner of things in their first beginnings, unripe, and mixed with much crudity. But it is to be hoped a far more pure, extensive, and glorious revival of religion is not far off, which will more properly be the beginning of that work which in its issue shall overthrow the kingdom of antichrist and of Satan through the world. But God will be inquired of for this by the house of Israel, to do it for them.
If, notwithstanding all I have said, it be still judged there is sufficient reason to determine, that the ruin of antichrist is at a very great distance; and if all I have said -- as arguing that the beginning of that glorious revival of religion, which in its continuance and progress will destroy the kingdom of antichrist, is not very far off -- be judged to be of no force; yet it will not follow, that our complying with what is proposed to us in the late Memorial from Scotland, will be in vain, or not followed with such spiritual blessings, as will richly recompense the pains of such extraordinary prayer for the Holy Spirit, and the revival of religion. If God does not grant that greatest of all effusions of his Spirit, so soon as we desire; yet we shall have the conscious satisfaction of having, employed ourselves in a manner that is certainly agreeable to Christ's will and frequent commands -- in being much in prayer for this mercy, much more than has heretofore been common with Christians -- and there will be all reason to hope, that we shall receive some blessed token of his acceptance. If the fall of mystical Babylon, and the work of God's Spirit final small bring it to pass, be at several hundred years' distance, yet, it follows not that there will be no happy revivals of religion before that time, which shall be richly worth the most diligent, earnest, and constant prayer.
The charge of novelty, answered.
I WOULD say something to one objection more, and then hasten to the conclusion of this discourse. -- Some may be ready to object, that what is proposed in this Memorial is a new thing such as never was put in practice in the church of God before.
If there be something circumstantially new in it, this cannot be a sufficient objection. The duty of prayer is no new duty. For many at God's people expressly to agree, as touching something they shall ask in prayer, is no new thing for Gods people to agree on circumstances of time and place for united prayer, according to their own discretion, is no new thing. For many, in different places, to agree to offer up extraordinary players to God, at the same time, as a token of their union, is no new thing, but has been commonly practiced in the appointment of days of fasting and prayer for special mercies. And if the people of God should engage in the duty of prayer for the coming of Christ's kingdom, in a new manner -- that they resolve not to be so negligent in this duty, as has been common with professors of religion heretofore, but will be more frequent and fervent in it -- this would be such a new thing as ought to be, and would be only to reform a former negligence. And for the people of God in various parts of the world, visibly, and by express agreement, to unite for this extraordinary prayer, is no more than their duty, and no more than what it is foretold the people of God should actually do, before the time comes of the church's promised glory on earth. And if this be a duty, then it is a duty to come into some method to render this practicable: but it is not practicable (as was shown before but by this method, or some other equivalent.
And as to this particular method, proposed to promote union in extraordinary prayer -- God's people in various parts setting apart fixed seasons, to return at certain periods, wherein they agree to offer up their prayers at the some time -- it is not so new as some may possibly imagine. This may appear by what follows; which is a part of a paper, dispersed abroad in Great Britain and Ireland, from London, in the year 1712, being the latter end of Queen Anne's reign, and very extensively complied with entitled, "A serious call from the city to the country, to join with them in setting apart some time, viz. from seven to eight, every Tuesday morning, for the solemn seeking of God, each one in his closet, now in this so critical a juncture.
"Call upon God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not." (Jonah 1:6)
What follows is an extract from it:
"You have formerly been called upon to the like duty, and have complied with it; and that not without success. It is now thought highly seasonable to review the call. It is hoped that you will not be more backward, when it is so apparent that there is even greater need. It is scarce imaginable how a professing people should stand in greater need of prayer, than we do at this day. You were formerly bespoke from that very pertinent text,
Zechariah 8:21. "The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, (or, as the marginal reading, more expressive of the original reading, is,) continually, from day to day, to entreat the face of the Lord." According to this excellent pattern, we of this city, the metropolis of our land, think ourselves obliged to call upon our brethren in Great Britain and Ireland at a time when our hearts cannot but meditate terror, and our flesh tremble for fear of God, and are afraid of his righteous judgments: those past being for the most part forgotten; and the signs of the times foreboding evil it to come being by the generality little, if at all, regarded: we cannot therefore but renew our earnest request, that all who make conscience of praying for the peace of Jerusalem, who wish well to Zion, who would have us and our posterity a nation of British protestants, and not of popish bigots and French slaves, would give us (as far as real and not pretended necessity will give leave) a meeting at the throne of grace, at the hour mentioned, there to wrestle with God, for turning away his anger from us, for our deliverance from the hands of his and our enemies, for turning the councils of all Ahitophels, at home and abroad, into foolishness; for mercy to the queen and kingdom; for a happy peace, or successful war so long as the matter shall continue undetermined; for securing the protestant succession in the illustrious house of Hanover, by good and evil wishes to which, the friends and enemies of our religion and civil rights are so essentially distinguished,) and especially for the influences of divine grace upon the rising generation, particularly the seed of the righteous, that the offspring of our Christian heroes may never be the plague of our church and country. And we desire that this solemn prayer be begun the first Tuesday after sight, and continued at least the summer of this present year, 1712. And we think every modest, reasonable, and just request, such as this, should not on any account be denied us; since we are not laying a burden on others, to which we will not most willingly put our own shoulders; nay, indeed, count it much more a blessing than a burden. We hope this will not be esteemed by serious protestants, of any denomination, a needless step; much less do we fear being censured by any such, as fanciful and melancholy, on account of such a proposal. We with them believe a providence, know and acknowledge that our God is a God hearing prayer. Scripture recordeth, and our age is not barren of instances, of God's working marvellous deliverances for his people in answer to humble, believing, and importunate prayer; especially when prayer and reformation go together; which is what we desire. -- Let this counsel be acceptable to us, in this day of the church's calamity, and our common fears. Let us seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. Let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Let us go and pray unto our God, and he will hearken unto us. We shall seek him and find him, when we search for him with all our hearts. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love her. And may Zion's friends and enemies both cry out with wonder when they see the work of God; Behold they pray -- What hath God wrought! Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth."
"Postscript. It is desired and hoped, that if any are hindered from attending this work at the above-mentioned hour, they will nevertheless set apart an hour weekly for it."
God speedily and wonderfully heard and answered those who were united in that extraordinary prayer, in sudden, scattering those black clouds which threatened the nation and the protestant interest with ruin, at that time in bringing about, in so remarkable a manner, that happy change in the state of affairs in the nation, which was after the queen's death, by bringing in King George the First, just at the time when the enemies of the region and liberties of the nation had ripened their designs to be put in speedy execution. And we see in the beginning of this extract, that what is proposed, is mentioned as being no new thing, but that God's people in Great Britain had formerly been called upon to the like duty, and had complied, not without success. Such agreements have several times been proposed in Scotland, before this which is now proposed to us there was a proposal published for this very practice, in the year 1732, and another in 1735. So that it appears this objection of novelty is built on a mistake.
Now, upon the whole, I desire every serious Christian who may read this discourse, calmly and deliberately to consider, whether he can excuse himself from complying with what has been proposed to us, and requested of us, by those ministers of Christ in Scotland, who are the authors of the late Memorial. God has stirred up a part of his church, in a distant part of the world, to be in an extraordinary manner seeking and crying to him, that he would appear to favour Zion, as he has promised. And they are applying themselves to us, to join with them; and make that very proposal to us, which is spoken of in my text, and in like manner and circumstances. The members of one church, in one country, are coming to others in distant countries, saying, Let us go, speedily and constantly to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts.
Will it not become us readily to say, I will go also? What these servants of Christ ask of us, is not silver or gold, or any of our outward substance, or that we would put ourselves to any cost, or do any thing that will be likely to expose us to any remarkable trouble, difficulty or suffering in our outward interest; but only that we would help together with them, by our prayers to God, for the greatest mercy in the world; a mercy which as much concerns us as them; for the glory of their Lord and ours; for the great advancement of our common interest and happiness, and the happiness of our fellow-creatures, through all nations, a mercy, of which, at this day especially, there is great need; a mercy, which we, in this land, do stand in particular need of; a mercy, which the word of God requires us to make the subject matter of our prayers above all other mercies, and gives us more encouragement to pray earnestly and unitedly to him for, than any other mercy; and a mercy, which the providence of God towards the world of mankind, at this day, loudly calls the people of God to pray for. I think, we cannot reasonably doubt but that these ministers have acted a part becoming disciples of the great Messiah, and ministers of his kingdom; and have done the will of God, according to his word, in setting forward such an affair at this day, and in proposing it to us. And therefore, I desire it may be considered, whether we shall not really sin against God, in refusing to comply with their proposal and request, or in neglecting it, and turning it by, with but little notice and attention; therein disregarding that which ii truly a call of God to us.
The ministers that make this proposal to us, are no separatists or schismatics; are no promoters of public disorders, nor of any wildness or extravagance in matters of religion, but are quiet, peaceable members and ministers of the church of Scotland, who have lamented the late divisions and breaches of that church. If any shall say, they cannot judge of their character, but must take it on trust from others, because they conceal their names; in answer to this, I would say, That I presume no sober person will say the has any reason to suspect them to be any other than gentlemen of honest intention. Be assured, there is no appearance of any thing else but an upright design in their proposal; and that they have not mentioned their names, is an argument of it. It may well be presumed, from the manner of their expressing themselves in the Memorial itself, they concealed their names from what perhaps may be called an excess of modesty, choosing to be at the greatest distance from appearing to set forth themselves to the view of the world, as the heads of a great affair, and the first projectors and movers of something extraordinary. And therefore, they are careful to tell us, that they do not propose the affair, but as a thing already set on foot; and do not tell us who first projected it. The proposal is made to us in a very proper and prudent manner, with all appearance of Christian modesty and sincerity, and with a very prudent guard against any thing that looks like superstition, or whatsoever might entangle a tender conscience. Far from any appearance of design to promote a particular party, or denomination of Christians, in opposition to others, with all appearance of the contrary, it is their charitable request, that none would by any means conceive of any such thing to be in their view, and that all -- of every denomination and opinion concerning the late religious commotions -- would join with them in seeking the common interest of the kingdom of Christ. And therefore, I think, none can be in the way of their duty in neglecting a proposal in itself excellent, and which they have reason to think is made with upright intentions, merely because the proposers modestly conceal their names. I do not see how any serious person, who has even an ill opinion of late religious stirs, can have any colour of reason to refuse a compliance with this proposal, on that account. The more disorders, extravagances, and delusions of the devil have lately prevailed, the more need have we to pray earnestly to God, for his Holy Spirit, to promote true religion, in opposition to the grand deceiver, and all his works. And the more such prayer as is proposed, is answered, the more effectually will all that is contrary to sober and pure religion be extirpated and exploded.
One would think that each who favours the dust of Zion, when he hears that God is stirring up a considerable number of his ministers and people to unite in extraordinary prayer, for the revival of religion and the advancement of his kingdom, should greatly rejoice on this occasion. If we lay to heart the present calamities of the church of Christ, and long for that blessed alteration which God has promised, one would think it should be natural to rejoice at the appearance of something in so dark a day, which is so promising a token. Would not our friends that were lately in captivity in Canada, who earnestly longed for deliverance, have rejoiced to have heard of any thing that seemed to forebode the approach of their redemption? And particularly, may we not suppose such of them as were religious persons, would greatly have rejoiced to have understood that there was stirred up in God's people an extraordinary spirit of prayer for their redemption? I do not know why it would not be as natural for us to rejoice at the like hopeful token of the redemption of Zion, if we made her interest our own, and preferred Jerusalem above our chief joy. If we are indeed called of God to comply with the proposal now made to us, then let me beseech all who sincerely love the interest of real Christianity, notwithstanding any diversity of opinion and former disputes, now to unite, in this affair, with one heart and voice: and let of go speedily to pray before the Lord. There is no need that one should wait for another. If we can get others our neighbours to join with us, and so can conveniently spend the quarterly seasons with praying societies, this is desirable, but if not, why should we wholly neglect the duty proposed? Why should not we perform it by ourselves, uniting in heart and practice, as far as we are able, with those who in distant places are engaged in that duty at that time?
If it be agreeable to the mind and will of God, that we should comply with the Memorial, by praying for the coming of Christ's kingdom, in the manner therein proposed, then doubtless it is the duty of all to comply in that I respect also, viz. in endeavouring, as far as in us lies, to promote others joining in such prayer, and to render this union and agreement as extensive as may be. Private Christians may have many advantages and opportunities for this, but especially ministers, inasmuch as they not only are by office overseers of whole congregations of God's people, and their guides in matters of religion, but ordinarily have a far more extensive acquaintance and influence abroad, than private Christians in common have.
And I hope, that such as are convinced it is their duty to comply with and encourage this design, will remember we ought not only to go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek his mercy, but also to go constantly. We should unite in our practice these two things, which our Saviour unites in his precept, PRAYING and NOT FAINTING. If we should continue some years, and nothing remarkable in providence should appear as though God heard and answered, we should act very unbecoming believers, if we should therefore begin to be disheartened, and grow dull and slack in seeking of God so great a mercy. It is very apparent from the word of God, that he is wont often to try the faith and patience of his people, when crying to him for some great and important mercy, by withholding the mercy sought for a season; and not only so, but at first to cause an increase of dark appearances. And yet he, without fail, at last succeeds those who continue instant in prayer with all perseverance, and "will not let him go except he blesses." It is now proposed that this extraordinary united prayer should continue for seven years, from November 1746. Perhaps some who appear forward to engage, may begin to think the time long, before the seven years are out, and may account it a dull story to go on for so long time, praying in this extraordinary method while all yet continues dark without any dawnings of the wished-for light, or appearance in providence of the near approach of the desired mercy. But let it be considered, whether it will not be a poor business, if our faith and patience is so short-winded, that we cannot be willing to wait upon God for seven in a way of taking this little pains, in seeking a mercy so infinitely vast. For my part, I sincerely wish and hope, that there may not be an end of extraordinary united prayer, among God's people, for the effusions of the blessed Spirit, when the seven years are ended, but that it will be continued, either in this method, or some other, by a new agreement, that will be entered into with greater engagedness, and more abundant alacrity, than this is; and that extraordinary united prayer for such a mercy will be further propagated and extended, than it can be expected to be in seven years. But, at the same time, I hope God's people, who unite in this agreement, will see some tokens for good before these seven years are out, that shall give them to see, God has not said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain; and shall serve greatly to animate and encourage them to go on in united prayers for the advancement of Christ's kingdom, with increasing fervency. But whatever our hopes may be in this respect, we must be content to be ignorant of the times and seasons, which the Father hath put in his power; and must be willing that God should answer prayer, and fulfil his own glorious promises, in his own time; remembering such instructions, counsels, and promises, of the word of God as these,
"Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart, wait, I say, on the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)
Hebrews 2:3, 4. "For the vision is yet for an appointed time but in the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." Micah 7:7. "I will look unto the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me." Isaiah 25:8, 9. "God will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God I we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is JEHOVAH! we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." Amen.