Imágenes de páginas

the prime mover in the Reformation; but it was otherwise. The people were rife for it before any thing very efficient was done by him. In this case Archbishop Cranmer and two of his bishops, Latimer and Ridley, unlike those on the continent, were engaged in this work; yet Henry VIII., with the nobles and church dignitaries, save a few, with others of the higher classes, were rather a hinderance to the work than otherwise. I know that these facts are not so apparent in the history of those times; but the reason is, that the church was then so inseparably united to the state, and the people were such a mere cipher in the councils of both, that historians, in narrating the events of those periods, rather confine themselves to doings of conspicuous characters, than relate the progress of the truth among the common people, who compose the mass of every nation. So of the great work under the Wesleys the last century, and which yet continues. It commenced among the poor of London and Bristol; the colliers of Kingswood and Newcastle. Now it has worked its way to the higher classes; and the rich, the learned, and the noble, together with the clergy of the establishment, are embracing evangelical principles in the love of them, and are "consecrating their gain to the Lord, and their substance to the God of the whole earth;" Micah iv, 13. The same has been the progress of the work in this country. The Methodists were once a poor and despised people; now they are becoming rich and honorable. None need be afraid that religion is becoming popular. It is designed to become so; and so long as we maintain purity of doctrine and discipline, there is no danger of its becoming so faster than popular characters are actually converted to God. In this essay we shall

I. Show from prophecy that "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."

Commencing with the Prophet Isaiah, who is fuller upon this point than any other:- "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea," Isa. xi, 1–9. The latter part of this passage is, without doubt, figurative; and the meaning of which is, that men of savage characters, of beast-like passions, shall be so subdued by the mild and peaceful spirit of the


gospel as to do no mischief; and which will cause wars to cease to the end of the earth," and prove one of the grandest and most glorious triumphs of the grace of God.

"Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth. For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away. The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place is too straight for me: give place to me that I may dwell. Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro ? and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been? Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me," Isa. xlix, 18-23. Here the former desolations of the church are referred to, and then a sudden and numerous increase of converts predicted, to an extent that shall utterly astonish the church. The power and extent of these revivals shall be so far beyond all precedent, that the faithful shall hardly know what to make of it. This prophecy has been fulfilled in one instance, of which we shall speak presently.

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Žion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."-" Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; (his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men :) so shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider," Isa. lii, 7-10, 13-15. The prediction," he shall sprinkle many nations," agrees with our Lord's commission to his apostles: "Go ye, teach all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."


'Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the deso

late cities to be inhabited. Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more."-"O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee."-"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord," Isa. liv, 2-4, 11-14, 17. It is certain that these predictions have not been fully realized as yet. The church is far from having arrived at that state of beauty, prosperity, and perfection here described. These predictions, therefore, remain to be fulfilled.

66 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee," Isa. lx, 1–5, and the whole chapter. Indeed, the greater part of the chapters to the end of the book are taken up with predictions concerning this season of millennial glory.

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; (which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord;) but this shall be the covenant I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more," Jer. xxxi, 31-34. "But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people,

[ocr errors]

and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it," Mic. iv, 1-4. It is here said that not individuals only, as now, but "nations shall say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord," &c.; with which agrees another prophetical declaration, that "a nation shall be born at once;" and the situation and character of certain nations of the present day, among which the leaven of truth has begun to work, clearly indicates that when they are converted to the truth, the whole mass of the people will move at once. Such is France and continental India. With this, also, agrees the words of an eminent writer, who wrote before the present attempts in the church to convert the whole world, that the progress of the gospel in the latter days would be unparalleled, far beyond our present humble notions of these things.

II. We shall prove from prophecy and "the signs of the times," that this period is rapidly approaching; "that it is even at the doors."

1. The more general prevalence of political, and, consequently, of religious liberty, is a circumstance favorable to the rapid spread of the truth. In almost all ages "the kings of the earth have set themselves, and the rulers have taken counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed." The arm of secular power has ever been uplifted to stop the progress of the truth, in which, in many instances, it has been but too successful. But now almost every hinderance of this kind is removed. Christianity, in this respect, has wisely provided for its own spread and perpetuity. Before the Reformation, religious toleration, as well as political freedom, were almost unknown; but upon the revival of religion under the Reformers, the spirit of liberty revived with it. This spirit of liberty not being able at first to break down whatever was opposed to it in the Old World, removed to the New. Here it flourished, finally achieved the independence of these states, and is now shedding its light upon the nations afar off, which has already been productive of vast and mighty changes in those very nations where it first took its rise. The gospel may now be freely preached throughout all North America; in every part of the British empire; in almost every nation upon the continent of Europe, even in papal Rome herself; and such are the commercial relations and the political influence of the two great lights of the world, Great Britain and the United States, that there is no considerable nation in any part of the world, Popish, Mohammedan, or Pagan, except China, where the gospel may not be preached with at least some degree of freedom. And, indeed, if the emperor of the celestial empire wishes to make war upon the King of heaven, why, Jehovah can easily hurl him from his throne, and produce such an entire change in the government of the country or the character of its rulers, as shall speedily open a highway for the redeemed of the Lord to walk in. Such a state of things, in this respect, the world never before saw. The Lord, by various political changes and revolutions, has overturned and overturned, that he whose right it is may reign; and if any still feel disposed to hedge up the way of truth by political restraints and religious intolerance,

[ocr errors]

Almighty God will speedily hurl them from their places, and make way for the progress of truth through the nations; "for a short work will the Lord make upon the earth."

2. The discoveries of modern navigators, and the present commercial relations of the world, afford admirable facilities for the universal spread of the gospel; and may be mentioned as a "sign of the times," which seems to indicate the approach of Christ's kingdom. There is a remarkable coincidence in several events which have an important bearing upon the kingdom of our Lord. Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, which brought to the knowledge of Christian nations a whole hemisphere who were in the darkness of paganism, and which must have so remained had it not been for this event, but in a portion of which the light of truth already shines the brightest, and is now enlightening the rest of the world. The art of printing was discovered in 1444, but forty-eight years before; a discovery which will facilitate the progress of the gospel beyond any other thing, save the voice of the living preacher. Constantinople was taken by the Turks in 1452, which broke up the Greek empire, and scattered the Greek literati through the west of Europe; and who, being especially patronized by the illustrious house of the Medici of Florence, to which house belonged Pope Leo X., who was a very active promoter of letters and science, greatly assisted in the revival of learning which took place at this time. The Reformation commenced in Germany, under Martin Luther, in 1517, but twenty-five years after the first-mentioned event, which gave additional importance to those preceding. Was not the hand of the Sovereign Dispenser of events in all these things? Or otherwise, why should they thus happen?

But to return from our apparent digression. The discoveries of modern navigators have brought millions of people to the knowledge of Christian nations, among whom the gospel has already begun its glorious work. The commercial relations of Great Britain and the United States, which are the nations now the most actively engaged in the spread of the truth, are such as to afford the most admirable facilities for the dissemination of the gospel. Their ships visit every nation, however remote; their sails whiten every sea, however distant. They penetrate the eternal ice and snows of the north, by which the gospel has already been carried to the Greenlanders, the remotest northern nation yet discovered ;-the extreme south, as far as the habitations of men are to be found. While circumnavigating the globe, they have planted their missions until they have met at the two extremes of longitude, and upon which the sun never sets. By this means the gospel may be carried to any nation, however remote or otherwise difficult of access. In the days of the apostles, travelling, either by land or water, was extremely slow and tedious; see Paul's voyage to Rome, Acts xxvii and xxviii; and some very distant and barbarous nations were even impossible of access. These very circumstances then absolutely precluded the possibility of the universal spread of the gospel. That must necessarily be left to another age, and that age is the present. The worldly man may be able to see in our present commercial affairs but a company of merchants, seeking for wealth in every nation; but the intelligent Christian is able to see the hand of God in this, bringing about his

« AnteriorContinuar »