« VorigeDoorgaan »
But if we defcend to particulars, and examine the prophecies with attention, we fhall find that the defections, which were to take place antecedent to the reign of the Redeemer, were to be of two kinds -that they were to arife at different times, and from different fources-that one was to be a corruption of religion, the other a rejection of it— that the former was to antecede and prepare the way for the latter.
THIS will be the fubject of another difcourfe.
The Declensions of Christianity, an Argument of its Truth.
LUKE Xviii. 8.
When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
THAT the coming of the Son of man, is here intended of Chrift's coming at the commencement of the latter day glory,hath been alleged in the preceding discourse, and feveral confiderations adduced in proof. Additional evidence will arife from a view of the prophecies relative to the great declenfions which were to take place in the church, during the gospel day. Thefe, we obferved, are of two kinds, one, a corruption of religion, the other its rejection.
THE intimations given of them in the new teftament, are chiefly found in the writings of St. Paul, Peter and John. They are noticed alfo by Jude. The two former suffered martyrdom under Nero. When the time of their departure drew nigh, they had separately a view of the then future ftate of the church; particularly of the declen
fions which were to take place in it, before " the kingdoms of this world, fhall become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Chrift." St. John had the fame opened to his view in the ifle of Patmos,
ST. PAUL in his fecond epiftle to the Theffalonians, after rectifying the miftake of those who thought the day of judgment then at hand, proceded to inform them that there would be great declenfions in the church before the end of the world. "Let no man deceive you, by any means, for that day fhall not come, except there come a falling away firft, and that man of fin be revealed, the fon of perdition; who oppofseth himself above all that is called God, or is worshipped; fo that as God, he fitteth in the temple of God, fhewing himself that he is God." The antichriftian defec. tion is here evidently intended. The apoftle toucheth on the same subject in his firft epiftle to Timothy, and directs him " to put the brethren in re. membrance of these things," to prevent furprise when they should happen. This was the first great declension which was to be permitted in the church.
IN his fecond epistle to the fame Christian bishop, written not long before his death, he resumes the fubject of the defections which were to happen in the church, but with a more particular reference to defections of a different kind, and of a later date. Having exhorted Timothy to faithfulnefs in the discharge of official duty, he adds a reafon; "For the time will come when they will not endure found doctrine; but after their own
lufts, fhall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they fhall turn their ears from the truth, and fhall be turned unto fables."
THIS doth not answer to the Romish defection. It was never the character of that church to "heap to themselves teachers." They never ran after those of other perfuafions, who brought new doctrines. Their errors were of the contrary kind. They rejected and perfecuted every teacher who did not derive from their infallible head, and teach as he directed. But "itching ears" have misled many of those,who "are moved away from the hope of the gospel. By turning to fables they have made shipwreck of faith, and fallen a prey to those who lie in wait to deceive."
ST. PETER wrote with equal plainness of the general defections; but those of infidelity are the fubject of his prophecies-" There fhall be falfe teachers among you, who privily fhall bring in damnable herefies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves fwift deftruction. And many fhall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the truth fhall be evil spoken of." The herefies here intended are depicted too minutely to be mistaken. The herefiarchs are defcribed as immoral, vain and proud, pretending to fuperior knowledge and penetration, defpifing law and government, and trampling them under their feet.
TOWARD the close of his fecond epistle, the apoftle remarks, that he "wrote to ftir up pure minds by way of remembrance; that they might
be mindful of the words fpoken before, by the holy prophets"—that is, of the predictions of inspired men, who had forewarned them of thofe deceivers
"Knowing this firft, that there fhall come in the laft days, fcoffers, walking after their own lufts, and faying where is the promise of his coming?" And he refers them to St. Paul, who had predicted their rife in the church-" Even as our beloved brother Paul alfo, according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you: As alfo in all his epiftles, fpeaking in them of thefe things." He adds" Ye therefore, beloved, feeing ye know these things before, beware, left ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own ftedfaftnefs."
THE fhort epistle of St. Jude is little other than a prophetic description of the fame apoftacy and its leaders, whom he terms "ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lafciviousnefs, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jefus ChriftThese are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lufts, and their mouths fpeaking great fwelling words-But beloved, remember ye the words which were fpoken before of the apoftles of our Lord Jefus Chrift; how they told you there fhould be mockers in the last time, 'who should walk after their own lufts."
THE errors of Rome are not here intended. They are manifeftly errors of a later date, which were to appear after those of Rome should fubfide, having loft their influence. It is repeatedly noted that they were to arife in the last days. They are