« PreviousContinue »
which is immense, has been confiscated to the crown, and their monks have been driven out to the world ; while infidelity, as in France, is withering her in its desolating progress. And this in the country where the horrid inquisition has reigned in terror for six centuries. But it overdid its work, and its days are ended.
In Portugal, one of the last nations where we should have looked for such things, the same misfortunes have befallen her. In the late strife between the usurper Don Miguel, and Don Pedro, the former emperor of Brazil, in favor of Donna Maria, the daughter of the latter, the bishops taking sides with Don Miguel, upon his downfall were forcibly ejected from their sees; the monasteries were abolished, and their property confiscated to the crown, as in Spain. The standard of revolt has been raised even in Italy herself, the seat of the beast; the very place of his throne; and the pope now keeps his place in the chair of St. Peter, not by the suffrages of his own people, but by the help of Austrian bayonets. Austria is now the only considerable power in Europe which lends its influence to the support of popery; the last remaining prop of the church; and if, by a sudden revolution in that empire, this remaining prop should be knocked away, down would come the whole fabric of error and superstition with the crash that will shake all Europe, and bring to a speedy overthrow all her influence and power in other parts of the world, if they do not actually fall before; and then shall be heard that "strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen.” Popery in Mexico and South America is every day becoming weaker and weaker, and totters to its fall, its power and importance being but trifling already; while the possessions of the church in the East Indies, which were once extensive and important, are now reduced to a mere cipher, and scarcely attract the attention of the world. The graphic and sublime scene described in the eighteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, will be realized before another generation has passed away. Prophecy hastens to its fulfilment, and the kingdom of our Lord advances.
7. Another sign of the times," indicating the ending of the reign of darkness and sin, and the coming of our Lord's kingdom, is the rapid decline of Mohammedanism in every part of the world. It is very remarkable that popery in the west, and Mohammedanism in the east, took their rise about the same time, arrived at the summit of their glory and power in the same century, and are now going down in each other's company. Popery may be considered as fairly begun in Europe in 606, when Boniface III., bishop of Rome, procured himself to be styled oecumenical or universal bishop by the usurper Phocas; and who immediately commenced establishing his claims, in fact, in which he was most perseveringly followed by his successors. Mohammed commenced his mission but eight years after, in 614; and the Hegira, or flight of the prophet, from which all his followers now compute their time, was in 622. While the bishops of Rome were busily engaged in bringing the churches of western Europe under their power, a work in which they did not finally succeed till many centuries after, Mohammed was as actively engaged in the east; and by dint of persuasion and force of arms, he and his successors soon succeeded in spreading their conquests through all western Asia, all the north of Africa, and at one time had possession of a part of Spain, and were even a terror to all Europe. They both arrived at the acme of their glory and power about the same time, viz., the middle of the fifteenth century, when the Turks took possession of Constantinople, broke up the Greek empire, and drove the best of its citizens into western Europe, who helped to strengthen and to beautify the Church of Rome. They both commenced their downward march at the same time, viz., in the following century, since which time the Mohammedans have been able to spread themselves no farther by force of arms.
While popery has been weakened by true religion, infidelity, and the progress of liberal principles combined, Mohammedanism has been greatly weakened by the most despotic character of its own governments, and the increase of power in Christian nations, especially Russia. This latter empire, now so mighty and formidable, and apparently the natural enemy of the Mohammedans, did not begin to assume any importance in Europe till the beginning of the last century, in the reign of Peter the Great, since which time it has been the continual scourge of Persia and Turkey, especially the latter, over whom the rod of the czar has been shaken till the proud Musselman cowers like a whipped spaniel; and we have reason to believe that the autocrat of the north has his eye upon Constantinople, as being a proper place for a third capital to his extensive empire. Algiers, the most formidable power in the north of Africa, is now in the possession of the French, who may perhaps take into their heads to extend their conquests a little farther to the east and west; and such is the weakness of the states of Barbary and Morocco, that they would fall an easy prey to them. Egypt, under Ibrahim Pacha, has been attempting to rise by conquests and improvements, introduced from Europe, to which his prejudices have submitted. But it is in vain; the decree of the Almighty is, that “Egypt shall be a base kingdom: it shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them that they shall no more rule over the nations ;"! Ezek. xxix, 14, 15. And so it has proved. All their attempts of this kind are in vain; the higher they attempt to rise the lower they sink.
The political influence of Great Britain and the United States is very great, especially that of the latter, in those countries, before which the prejudices, the bigotry, and the intolerance of the Musselmen are constantly giving way; so that many Christian missions are already established among them, and copies of the Scriptures in the Turkish and Arabic languages are circulated. The very name of an American is a passport and protection to him in those countries, as the name of a Roman formerly was in the same places; which affords a wonderful facility to our missionaries to penetrate any of those regions they may please.
Another singular cause has operated to greatly weaken those nations; a cause, the power of which is seldom noticed or estimated by purblind statesmen and politicians. Mohammed forbid his followers the use of wine. This prohibition they have ever strictly obeyed. This, in the days of their conquests, gave them great advantage over their antagonists, the nominal Christians and heathen, who made a free use of the juice of the grape; inasmuch as a sober soldier can endure more fatigue, and fight better, than a drunken one. But, of late years, the Turk has found a substitute for wine in opium, the intoxicating qualities of which are far more exhilarating than the fermented juice of the grape; and, like all other narcotics, the more exhilarating it is in its first effects, so the more depressing it is in those which follow-prostrating both physical and intellectual strength as though they were things of naught; so that, while Turkey has been turned into a poppy-field, the physical prowess of its millions has been made weakness, and the spirit of enterprise which distinguished their fathers is departed, and Turkey is no longer what she was.
Thus the hinderance to the progress of the gospel in those countries where it was first preached, where the tragedy of man's redemption was acted, and where are the remains of the Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, and Nestorian churches, is now about to be removed out of the way; and the Lord is there casting up a highway for his redeemed to walk in, and in which “none shall molest or make them afraid." The reign of the false prophet is now short, and his days almost ended.
Lastly, we may remark, the whole religious world is upon the move; the time of the shaking of nations is come; the universal war of opinion; the collision between light and darkness; the contest between good and evil, has now begun. As we have seen, the kingdom of antichrist is coming down, and that of the false prophet is sharing the same fate. Paganism is also trembling as before its fall. Ethiopia is” literally “stretching out her hands to God.” The sable sons of Ham are even imploring the coming of the missionary to teach them the way of life, and to bring with them the blessings of the gospel of peace. “ The isles are also waiting for his law." They seem to be impatient for the coming of Christian teachers, that they may “throw their idols to the moles and to the bats,
," and learn to worship the God of heaven. In continental India the missionaries have apparently labored in vain for forty years, and seem to have accomplished but little, except to translate the Scriptures into the languages of the countries, and to now and then save a poor heathen from the idolatry of his fathers; the prevalence of caste seeming to throw an almost insuperable barrier in their progress. But we are now informed that they have actually succeeded in undermining the very foundations of heathen society; that there exists in their minds a persuasion, founded upon the predictions of their own sacred books, that their religion is to be overthrown and superseded by another, which they think is the Christian; and that the whole mass of society is ready to renounce idolatry. The thing to be most feared for India now is, that there will not be upon the spot a sufficient number of Christian instructers to stand upon the line of truth and stop them as they go over from gross idolatry to infidelity, which is the course men always take; running from one extreme into another. The same may be said of infidelity. Man is a religious being by nature. He therefore must have some object of faith and reverence, but infidelity affords him none.
He therefore cannot remain in it long, for it is an unnatural state.
The French have made a complete experiment of its nature, and not finding it to answer the purpose, are turning from it satiated
and in disgust, and inquiring for something better. This experiment decides the fate of unbelief. What France, after having fairly tried it, has rejected, no other nation will embrace for any length of time. In England the abettors of unbelief have made strenuous efforts, but with no success; and lately the Christian world have been gratified in witnessing the conversion of one of the most able and zealous of their number, Richard Carlisle, which must have a tendency to discourage the remainder. The infidels of Europe have turned their attention to this country; but in noticing that all its females who have the rising generation under their control, as well as a great part of the generation that have already risen, are believers, they have turned away in utter hopelessness of ever being able to overthrow Christianity in this republic. So nothing now remains but for the saints of the Most High to go up and possess the kingdom for ever and ever. “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost part of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel ;" Psa. ii, 8, 9. The prayer has gone up, and we now wait for the fulfilment of promise ; as the church universal still prays, “Thy kingdom come, and thy will be done, as in heaven so here upon the earth;" to which all voices respond, "Amen."
To conclude, there remains but one thing more for us to notice in this essay, and that is, the time in which these prophecies shall be fulfilled. The opinion that generally prevails in the Christian world is, that they shall be fulfilled at the completion of the third era of the world, or the first of the Christian dispensation; in the year 2000, which will usher in the millennium, the reign of Christ a thousand years upon the earth. The reign of the beast," or duration of the kingdom of antichrist, according to Daniel, is to be for "a time, times, and the dividing of a time;" Dan. vii, 25. With him agrees St. John, who says it shall be “for a time, times, and a half a time;" Rev. xii, 14: or, “forty and two months ;" Rev. xiii, 5: or, "a thousand, two hundred, and threescore days;" Rev. xii, 6; which all refer to the same period. “A time" in the language of prophecy is three hundred and sixty years, three and a half of which make twelve hundred and sixty. “Forty and two months” are also three and a half years, which make the same prophetic period. “One thousand, two hundred, and threescore days," reckoning a day for a year, make also precisely the same period of twelve hundred and sixty years. We are, therefore, now to ascertain the precise time in which “the beast commenced his reign. Respecting this there may be a variety of opinions; but we are satisfied to place it at the year 606, in which Boniface III. was proclaimed universal bishop, as before mentioned. This period will therefore close in 1866, but twenty-nine years from the present time. And we presume to say, that if popery continues to go down for a few years to come as it has for a few years past,
time will be at an end in that year. And although, in the United States, popery is making vigorous exertions to establish itself, yet, whatever its success may be, even to the ultimatum of its wishes, which many fear, its triumph is short: it must come to an end by that time. The “reign of the false prophet,” that is, Mohammedanism, we believe
is for the same period ; and, of course, will come to an end soon after. The entire number of years between now and the year 2000, the time of the final establishment of our Lord's kingdom, is one hundred and sixty-three; which, although apparently a short time to convert the world, in its present state, to Christ, yet we may be assured that if the work progresses in the same ratio for this whole period as it has for these forty years past, it will be done. Success is now the order of the day in every department of this work; no labor is lost. “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater ; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it;" Isa. lv, 10, 11. Happy are those who labor in this “harvest,” and “gather fruit unto eternal life.”
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
ART. V.-OBSERVATIONS ON WATSON'S THEOLOGICAL
Continued from the July No.
BEING AND ATTRIBUTES OF GOD. Having, in our preceding set of observations, made such remarks upon Part I. of the Institutes as the nature of our plan seemed to require, we now proceed to another branch of the subject.
“The divine authority of those writings which are received by Christians as a revelation of infallible truth having been established, our next step is, seriously and with simplicity of mind, to examine their contents, and to collect from them that ample information on religious and moral subjects which they profess to contain, and in which it had become necessary that the world should be supernaturally instructed."
For this investigation Mr. Watson was peculiarly well fitted; I cannot but think better fitted than for any other. His mind seemed to tremble under the pressure of arguments depending upon the summation of numerous details, and to seek anxiously for an escape into the wide realm of general principle. Here the easiness of his air, and the quiet strength with which he travels on through fields of beauty and light, indicate that he is at home-in fields of his own.
Owing to the peculiar qualities of his mind, if I do not misjudge, that part of his work which concerns the Being and Attributes of God, the brief system of Morals in Part III., and the Essay on Church Government, are far its best portions. In the first there are few arguments of detail, properly so called; and on the subjects of the second and third, the limits of his work allow him to give only general views.
The same qualities which fitted Mr. Watson for independent investigation in this branch of the subject, fitted him also to make profitable use of the labors of others. Not the least valuable part of his work consists in the introduction which it gives us to the writings