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the apostle Paul has clearly predicted, that the Jews will ultimately come into the Christian church, with the fulness of the Gentiles. I quote but a small part of his strong language on this subject, addressed to the Christians at Rome; “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery—that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”* Thus finally, the apostle John, who was often “rapt into future times;” and obtained a view, or heard a representation, of things to come, among other visions of the church universal and triumphant, records one in these words; “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.”t I proceed no further in making quotations from the prophecies, not because others might not be made, equally appropriate; but because these are abundantly sufficient for our present purpose. It would indeed be in vain, and certainly it is here unnecessary, to attempt a recital of all the passages of scripture, which contain intimations, symbolical representations, and express predictions, of the universal propagation of the gospel, and the general influence of its purifying spirit. But by what means, or in what manner, Christianity will obtain this universal influence, we are not able with much precision to determine. Indeed, (to adopt the language of Faber) “such ‘secret things,’ as unaccomplished prophecies, ‘belong unto the Lord our God;’ and it is
* Rom. xi, 25, 26. † Rev. xi. 15.
a vain waste of time to weary ourselves with conjectures, respecting the precise mode of their accomplishment. Upon these points, when we go beyond what is written, we exceed our commission; and it has almost invariably been found, that the commentator, who attempted to show how a prophecy was about to be fulfilled, was by the event convicted of error. We may safely and positively declare, what will come to pass; and we may even say, how it will come to pass so long, as we resolutely confine ourselves to the explicit declarations of scripture. But to point out the manner, in which an event will be accomplished, any further, than the word of God hath revealed the manner of it, is to pry too curiously into what he hath purposely concealed; and to aim at becoming prophets, instead of contenting ourselves with being humble and fallible expositors of prophecy.” An attempt to show precisely how the glorious event, predicted in our text, will be produced, would surely be in us the height of presumption. We know not, whether it will be solely by the use of ordinary means, under the leadings of Providence and the gracious influences of the Spirit, supporting the preachers of the gospel, and opening the hearts of their hearers to receive the truth ; or, as at the first establishment of Christianity, by some miraculous interposition of Heaven—some special assistance from above—some wonderful effusion of the Holy Spirit. We are, however, certainly authorized to say, that ordinary means will not be omitted. Faithful teachers will be sent into every region; the Bible will be translated into every language; the gospel will be preached to every rational creature under heaven. The analogy of grâce as well, as the language of prophecy, must likewise lead us to expect, that the conversion of the world will continue to be in some measure progressive; like the growth of the mustard-seed, or the diffusion of leaven. This progress may indeed, toward the time of the completion, be exceedingly rapid. The scene of Pentecost may be again exhibited. Nations may be born in a day. The figurative language of the prophet may be strictly applicable to the Christian converts of that period; “these fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows.”* Indeed, although we have reason to expect, that the spread of the gospel and its happy influence will continue to be progressive; yet have we at least equal reason to conclude, that it will, for a season before its complete triumphs, spread with greater rapidity, and produce a more direct and permanent influence on the character and condition of men, than it has ever done, since the days of the apostles. For certainly the change, to be produced in these respects, is great—great not only in heathen lands; but even in those countries, which are now denominated Christian. Much error must be corrected, great prejudice overcome, strong passions subdued, and depraved appetites restrained and rectified. Thousands of nominal Christians must be taught the very “first principles of the oracles of God,” and turned from the error of their ways to the wisdom of the just; and tens of thousands, who now worship dumb idols, must be converted from their debasing, sensual, and often cruel, devotion, to the knowledge and service of the only living and true God. Still, however, (I repeat the observation) what will be the precise mode and peculiar circumstances of this change, we pretend not to determine. Nor are we able to learn with certainty, how soon this predicted change in the moral and religious state of the
world will have so far taken place, as to constitute a complete accomplishment of the prophecy; and it is a mark, not only of vanity, but presumption, to pretend to be wise above, what is written. Sir Isaac Newton very justly observes, that “the folly of interpreters has been to foretel times and things by the Apocalypse, as if God designed to make them prophets. By this rashness,” continues he, “they have not only exposed themselves, but brought the prophecy also into contempt.” It is not, however, inconsistent with this modest sentiment, to notice “the times” and “signs of times,” which the prophets have described in connexion with predicted events.-Now both Daniel and St. John, whose prophet. ic numbers are in perfect agreement, have definitely fixed the duration of the reign of Antichrist to twelve hundred and sixty years; and the great event, predicted in our text, is closely connected by the prophets with the destruction of this antichristian power. But whether the commencement of this reign is to be reckoned from the year 606, when the bishop of Rome assumed the impious title, and began to exercise the tyrannical power, of universal bishop; or from the year 756, when the papal authority was confirmed by the union of civil and ecclesiastical power in the person, who succeeded this self-created bishop; or from some other period, we are not able absolutely to determine. For wise reasons it was probably designed by Heaven, that we should not be able definitely and with assurance to determine this point, till the full accomplishment of the prophecy should assist the expositor in the application of all its parts. Nor is it necessary for any practical purpose, that we should indulge in uncertain conjecture. For at whatever probable period you fix the commencement of the reign of
Antichrist, the end cannot be far distant. According to every plausible hypothesis the hour is at hand, when every thing, which exalteth itself against God, shall be destroyed—“when all opposition to the Redeemer’s kingdom shall appear to have been in vain”—when those, who are alive and remain, shall behold the accomplishment of the prophecy, and understand the meaning of the vision, in which the beloved apostle saw an angel come down from heaven, having great power, and crying mightily with a strong voice, Babylon the great is fallen / is fallen /* o
But beside marked periods and definiteeras, the prophets have furnished us with specific signs of future times and seasons. Among the signs, which indicate the speedy approach of the happy period, predicted in our text, are these; great commotions and revolutions in the world—nation rising up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom ;— a temporary declension of vital religion—a falling away from the faith, once delivered to the saints—a prevalence, for a season, of infidelity and error, vice and iniquity, in Christian countries; and all this accompanied, or closely followed, by increased zeal and activity in the cause of truth and righteousness—real Christians of various denominations with united energy striving to strengthen the good things, which remain among them, and to communicate the light of life to them, that sit in darkness and in the valley of the shadow of death—men running to and fro through the earth and spreading the knowledge of God, our Saviour—an angel, a messenger, a zealous ministry, flying in the midst of heaven, going forth in haste, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them, that dwell on the earth, and to every nation and
* Rev. 18.