_________ SOLOMON'S SONG viii. 5. Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? THE text is a passage of divine inspiration, which strikes the mind of the hearer or reader with more than ordinary power and force; and is propounded by way of question, as though in the answer we might receive much instruction and useful knowledge. It is truly so; and may the Spirit of God assist us to gather honey from this beautiful flower from the wilderness. We find it in the Songs of Solomon, which are highly figurative and allegorical, and were when composed presented in poems or songs; but by reason of the translation they have come to us in prose.
Some have supposed, that when Solomon composed this Song, or Songs, they were composed for dramatical performances, either as preludes, interludes, or epilogues. But I am of opinion that it was composed for a prophetic song of Christ and his church. But be that as it may, they certainly do represent, in rich and beautiful figures, the character and love of Christ for his church; likewise, her character and love towards her divine Master, her connection to him, and her dependence upon him in this state of trial. That the church has been, and will be, in a state of trial as long as she remains imperfect, cannot be doubted by any man of common reflection, perception, or knowledge.
She has enjoyed her seasons of prosperity; and has been strongly tried in scenes of adversity. In tracing her history from the patriarch Abraham to the present day, we find her variable as the wind, and changeable as the weather.
To-day, she is coming up out of the wilderness leaning on the arm of her beloved; to-morrow, "like a young roe leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills."
Now she is seen among the trees of the woods; next in a palace of silver inclosed in boards of cedar.
There we saw her in the clefts of the rock; here we behold her in the broad way, in the streets of the great city.
Again we find her among the foxes of the desert; and anon we perceive her seeking him whom her soul loveth.
She is asleep on her bed by night; and the same night the watch finds her in the city.
Behold her Lord, knocking at the door for admittance, while she is too indolent to arise and let him in. The next moment she is opening to her beloved; but he had withdrawn himself. At one time the voice of her beloved sounding over the hills, and echoing among the mountains like the roar of distant thunder, has no impression; next the soft whisper of love gains all her attention.
Here blows the rough north wind and strong south wind upon her spices; yet they put forth no fragrancy. And there the lightest breeze makes her roses blossom, and all the air is perfume.
See her countenance to-day black as the tents of Kedar; and to-morrow comely as the daughters of Jerusalem, and fair as the purple curtains of Solomon. To-day she is "a garden barred, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed;" to-morrow "a garden open, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon." Now she is weak as a babe; a single watchman can "smite, wound, and take away her vail;" and then she is courageous and valiant, "terrible as an army with banners." To-day she is made to keep another's vineyard; to-morrow she is realizing a thousand pieces of silver from her own. She is truly a changeable being, carried about by the slightest circumstances. This is the description of the church, as given to us in this Song of Solomon's. I shall therefore show in explanation of our subject,
I. What has been the general character of the church in the wilderness;
II. Her character when out of the wilderness; and, then,
III. Make an application of our subject, by showing in what state the church may be considered at the present time.
I. The church in the wilderness.
It appears by the word of God, that for some wise purpose, God has called his people into the wilderness state, time and again. 1st. Abraham was called to go out from the land of his fathers "into a strange land, not knowing whither he went; and he obeyed God, sojourning in the land of promise as in a strange country; dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." By this means, Abraham obtained the name of the Father of all them that believe. We learn by the history of Abraham, that the first seed of the church was called into the wilderness as a place of promise; where God took special care of them, saying to the kings and princes of this world, "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." We see them supported and kept through all the trials of life; and, in the midst of idolatrous nations, among whom they sojourned, not one of them lost their faith, or became impure in their worship; but God was with them, preserving them in war, famine, and the heavy judgments of God upon the nations with whom they sojourned.
The next account we have of the church being called into the wilderness was in the days of Moses, when the children of Israel were delivered from Egyptian slavery, and brought out by the mighty and powerful hand of God into the wilderness, where she was fed, clothed, and shod by miracle, and preserved by manna from heaven, and flesh from the desert; where the cloud of his presence overshadowed them by day, and the pillar of fire by night. The angel of the covenant accompanied them through all the wilderness, "gave them drink as out of the great depths. He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers." "He made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. He led them on safely, so they feared not; but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. He brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to the mountain his right hand had purchased. He cast out the heathen also before them, divided them an inheritance by line, and made the children of Israel to dwell in tents." Thus sang the sweet psalmist of Israel. And what could God have done more than he did for his people in the wilderness?
The next and last proof we have that God calls his people into the wilderness, you will find in Rev. xii. 6, 14, "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days."
"And to the woman were given two wings of an eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness into her place, (take notice, the wilderness is here called "her place,") where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent;" that is, away from the power of the Roman beast, or power which is here called the serpent. The prophet Hosea, in his vision of the wilderness state of the church under the gospel dispensation, says, "Therefore, behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her; and I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope, and she shall sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt," Hosea ii. 14, &c. We might quote you more of this prophecy, and show you how exactly every word has been literally fulfilled in time and manner, as John has told us in Revelation; but I have sufficiently proved that God has called his church into the wilderness, for purposes of good to the churches. I will now, 2dly, show what object God had in view, so far as he has revealed his object in his word, in calling his church into the wilderness. Moses says, Deut. viii. 16, 17, "Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end, lest you should say in your hearts, My power, and the might of mine hand, hath gotten me this wealth."
Surely, my brethren, if we would read this passage and apply it home, we must see, unless we are wilfully blind, that if we are in the wilderness at this time, the object of God is lost upon us. We are not humble enough to believe that God is the Author and Finisher of our faith, or that salvation is of God. Are we not saying, not only in our hearts, but also in doctrine, words, and action, that we can do great things; our might, our wisdom, our hands, have gotten us this great wealth?
Do we not see our benevolence trumpeted forth in every publication of the present day, and our contributions spread far and wide? For what? To feed the hungry and clothe the naked? No, not literally, but mentally. Yes, and do we not see that instead of feeding the public mind with wholesome food, with the sincere milk of the word, we have almost surfeited them with our tarts and spices, until the public mind has become so heated, nothing satisfies unless it has been highly spiced with some agitated question to more inflame the public pulse. More than three quarters of all our contributions are used to bloat each other up in self-righteousness and pride; or to pull each other down, with our excited questions of right and wrong. The moral code which God gave to man for his happiness here and hereafter is demolished; and Judge Lynch is the order of the day, as well in morals as in our civil affairs. Where in the word of God are we commanded to have our gifts for charitable purposes published, either before or behind us, by a public gazette or a brazen-mouthed trumpet? Yet at the present day, we glory in our pride, and excuse ourselves in the manner of doing it; for the end, say we, justifies the means. Why, then, did not our Savior justify the Pharisees in the same means for the very same object--to make proselytes?
The wilderness then, under existing circumstances, is calculated as the best place to keep the church humble, teach her her dependence on God, and to give her a grateful heart. For there she mixes not with the world, there she is not wholly engaged after the riches, honors, wisdom, and fashions of this world. In the wilderness she depends more on the manna of God's word for her daily food; but in the great city, she seeks for the popular learning of the world, the vain philosophy of the ancients, or the wisdom of men. There God feeds her with spiritual bread, living water, and sincere milk of the word; but here she feeds on the old corn of the land; she mixes her wine with strong drink, until it sparkles in the cup; she pours out her milk as a drink-offering to her idols, and mingles the doctrine of God's word with the doctrines of devils. There she learns, by a rich experience, her dependence on her divine Master; here she forgets all his mercies, and ascribes all her blessings to her idol gods, or worship of her own hands.
There the daily presence of God prevents her worshipping the idols of the world, or following after the gods which are no gods; but here the presence of worldly objects draws her attention from the one living and true God; and she has lords many and gods many.
In the wilderness, the teachers in the church are more pure; there is nothing to tempt their cupidity, or foster their pride; they feed the flock of God instead of themselves; the church is not rich in worldly things to tempt the wolf or the fox to enter her folds. But among the citizens, she must expect, while man is wicked, that the false and designing teachers will rush into her ministry, to subserve their own interest, and draw off followers after them. In the wilderness, the church has but few temptations for the honors and emoluments of the political world, for she is nourished away from the face of this wily serpent, which has coiled his folds around the heart of many a professor of Jesus Christ, and destroyed all that piety of heart and life, which, separate from political strife, they once enjoyed.
Moses, speaking of the church in the wilderness, says, Deut. xxxii. 9-12, "For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste, howling wilderness he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him." If the above is a true description of God's care and protection of his people in the wilderness, surely this must be a desirable state for the church.
Isaiah, in his vision of the church in the wilderness, says, (xxxv. 1, 2,) "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God." If the church had been in the city, instead of beholding the glory of God, her eyes might have been dazzled with the glory of the world, and excellency of her great men, or with the gods of the men of the world; so that, while in this state of trial and temptation, while imperfection is found in the church, the wilderness is a place of greater security from inbred lust and outward foes.
Perhaps we have been in the habit of fixing in our minds quite a different idea of the wilderness state of the church, from what ideas I have given, or from what might be proved by the writings of the prophets and apostles. Examine for yourselves, and see.
II. We are to learn the character of the church when it may be said she is out of the wilderness.
1st. What does the church enjoy when she is out of the wilderness? I answer, She enjoys possessions, privileges, and laws among the kingdoms and political nations of the earth; kings are her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers, "They shall bow down to thee, with their face to the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet," says Isaiah, xlix. 23. That is, the church, when in this situation, receives the courtly smiles of the great, and the sycophantic cringing of the political demagogue. But let the church remember, although kings, queens, and great men of the world may bow down, court, and idolize her, and may descend to lick the dust from her feet, yet it is only to flatter and to betray; for their "faces" are not Zion-ward, but to the "earth." Their motives are earthly, devilish. It is a serpent still; they feed on the food of serpents, the dust of your feet. "They eat the sins of my people as they eat bread." Some suppose it will be a goodly time, when kings and queens will be fathers and mothers in Zion. But no, my brethren; the true church have but one father, which is God; and but one mother, which is not of this world, but she is the New Jerusalem, the mother of us all, which cometh down from above. Christ himself says, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me;" as much as if he had said, By and by the kings and princes of this world will come and court you; they will pretend to great friendship for you; they will offer to nurse, feed, and clothe you; but remember they have nothing in me. You must, if you wish to win the crown of glory, "contend against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places; for he hath nothing in me." Again, Daniel says, ii. 43, "They (the people of God) shall mingle themselves with the seed of men, (kings and queens, for fathers and mothers,) but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay." Let this suffice to show that it is the duty of the church of Christ to keep themselves unspotted from the world; to be separate, and touch not the unclean thing. What is the unclean thing? I answer, It is the policy of worldly governments; in one word, it is a political spirit; that spirit which is not peaceable, pure, easy to be entreated. Who, I ask, ever saw a political partisan have these fruits while prompted by that spirit? "First pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated." A political man, if he had any conscience, would blush with shame to claim these appellations. And where, in all the history of the church, from the days of the apostles until now, have kings, queens, or rulers of this world undertaken to nurse the church, and lord it over God's heritage, but that they have proved, in the end, a curse instead of a blessing? I am bold to say, Nowhere! And one thing more I am bold to say--That kind of morality which requires the aid of the political world to enforce it, is a harlot in disguise, and her path is the way to death; in her secret chambers you will find war, rapine, and murder, and in her train will be seen revenge, hatred, envy, and division. These are the temptations of the church when in the city of the nations.
2dly. What has been her character when in the city? Answer: When the Jews left the wilderness, and entered into Canaan, their manna, with which they had been fed while travelling in the wilderness, ceased, and they fed on the old corn of the land. This manna was a type of the spiritual food given by God to his children, while under his immediate control and care. See Rev. ii. 17. Old corn is a fit resemblance of the worldly rights, privileges, and possessions among the nations of the earth. The Jews, almost immediately after they took possession of the land of Canaan, began to mix themselves with the inhabitants around them, and became men pleasers, and a nation of idolaters; and the very things which Moses charged them against, became the common occurrences of the day; and on account of which God suffered their enemies to bring them into bondage, and, from a powerful people, that had made kings tremble even upon the report of them while in the wilderness, now became a weak and degraded people, a tributary nation, a band of slaves to their enemies; and the prophecy of Moses, Deuteronomy xxxii. 15-20, was literally accomplished in about twenty years after they took possession of their goodly land. "But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers (while in the wilderness) feared not. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee." The word tells us, Judges ii. 11, 12, "The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim; and forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger." They dwelt among the Canaanites, and, as it is said, Judges iii. 6, "they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods."
This was the character and practice of the Jews, God's ancient covenant people. They ate, they drank, and rose up to play. They were proud, rebellious, and ungodly. They obeyed not the commands of God, and heeded not the warning voice of the Almighty. They regarded not the teaching of the true prophets, but followed in the train of the popular prophets of Baal. They persecuted and drove into the wilderness the true servants of Jehovah, while they fed, clothed, and schooled hundreds of the servants of Baalim. They became a stiff-necked and hard-hearted people to their own God, and bowed their necks, and were subservient to the nations and their gods around them. They forsook or demolished the altars erected for the worship of the true God, and erected under every green tree altars to Baalim and Ashtaroth. They waxed rich in corn, wine, and oil, yet were poor and scanty in their first fruits to God. They multiplied in cattle, silver, and gold, and forgot that it was God who gave them power to get wealth.
This, we must acknowledge, is the character of the Jews, as given unto us by the sacred historians. These were the people whom God had chosen out of all the nations of the earth, to be his peculiar people--a people who had seen and experienced the salvation of God in a most miraculous manner; from Egyptian bondage, from drought and famine in the wilderness, and from the power of the nations who sought to impede their progress, or hinder their possessing the promised land. They had enjoyed the visible presence of the angel of the covenant forty years in the wilderness. They had heard the audible voice of Jehovah on the mountain; they saw his power and glory on Sinai. Yet the next generation after Joshua, had become so deeply corrupted, by unbelief, ingratitude, and rebellion, that they gave all the glory to works of their own hands, and worshipped idols of stocks and stones.
This, you say, is a dark picture of man, and could not have applied to any other people but the Jews. I will agree that no other nation were, at that time, placed in like circumstances with them. But dark as the picture, and hideous as the detail, it is but a shadow of our day, a type of the Christian church in the times in which we live.
"Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?" The text does not tell us she is out of the wilderness, but coming out; as though in the wilderness, and while she is coming out, she leans upon her lord. Her affections were not yet contaminated by a love for the world, nor her faith weakened by her vanity and self-esteem. Thus was it with the Jews; and so has it been with the church in ages past. Then let me,
III. Make an application of our subject, by showing what may be considered the present state of the gospel church.
I believe all writers and commentators on the Apocalypse agree that the church of Christ has been in the wilderness more than twelve centuries past. Some have fixed the time of the church entering into her wilderness state as early as A.D. 534, when the great controversy between the orthodox and Arians, which, in the days of Justinian, shook the religious world into two great divisions, like the two "wings of an eagle," from the convulsions of which many of the true servants of God, or all of them, disgusted with the spirit shown by both of the contending parties, who both claimed and used the civil authority to exterminate or conquer their heterodox brethren, fled into the north-east part of Europe, away "from the face of the serpent,"--the emperors of the east, and the more powerful bishops of Rome--where for numbers of centuries they lived unknowing and unknown.
Other writers say that it was as late as A.D. 606, when the Pope, by the concessions of Phocas, obtained civil and ecclesiastical power, and that he came out publicly wearing two swords. Between these two points I believe all writers fix the time of the church entering into her wilderness state, "a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there 1260 days;" or, "to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent," Rev. xii. 6th and 14th verses, 1260 days being the same as time, times and a half--three years and a half, or 1260 prophetic days--which, according to my former proof, must mean 1260 years.
The question now remains to be settled, Where and when this wilderness state began, in order for us to understand the present state of the church.
And first, let us inquire, What are the Scripture marks of the beginning of this period? I answer, in the Apocalypse, xi. 2, "But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not, for it is given unto the Gentiles; and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty-two months." This is the same time, three years and a half, or 1260 days, as before. Again, Rev. xiii. 4, 5, "And they worshipped the dragon, which gave power unto the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given him to continue forty and two months"--the very same time mentioned again. And we learn, by this passage, that this beast, which would persecute and drive into the wilderness the church, would receive his power from the dragon,--the same as in Rev. xii. 4, "stood before the woman, which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born,"--and must, of necessity, be the Roman power. See Rev. xvii. 12, 13. "And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power, as kings, one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast." This text plainly proves that the kings of the Roman power gave their power and authority to this beast, which was to drive into the wilderness the church, "and tread her under foot forty and two months."
We must look, then, for some law, passed by some Roman emperor, and sanctioned by the ten kings, (for they, too, had the same mind to give "their power and strength unto the beast," meaning, as I understand it, Rome Papal,) in order to find the commencement of the church in the wilderness.
We find that Justinian, emperor of Constantinople, formed a code of laws about A.D. 534, which were published and sanctioned, in the Western Empire at Rome, about four years afterwards; on which code of laws, the Pope has claimed his authority to rule over kings, and punish heretics with confiscation of their goods, imprisonment or torture of body, and even death; which laws continued in force until 1260 years afterwards, in the year 1798, when the French people, under General Bonaparte, abolished the laws, and constituted Italy a republic.
Then, in the year 1798, the church began to come up out of the wilderness. "What," says the objector, "has Bonaparte or the wars of France to do with the church coming out of the wilderness?" I answer, Much; for the same power that gave the anti-Christian beast his authority, must take it away. The political river Jordan must be parted asunder; the law of outlawry against the church must be abolished, before she could enjoy rights and privileges in the great city of nations. In this war, under the modern dragon, the emperor of the French, the barriers were broken down. And now, the church is permitted to exist in almost all kingdoms in the known world.
This is "coming up out of the wilderness," for she is now permitted to publish the gospel of her beloved among all nations. She can now translate his word into every language, and send his servants into every quarter of the globe. By this were the armies of Christ to conquer his enemies by the "sharp sword which proceedeth out of his mouth." And as the Jews overran and conquered a large share of the promised land, after they came out of the wilderness, even so, in these days, the church is extending her banners over a large share of the earth, the promised land of the Christian. See Psalm xxxvii. 22, 28, 29, and 34. Prov. ii. 21, 22. x. 30. Matt. v. 5. For the apostle Paul tells us, 1 Cor. x. 11, "Now all these things happened unto them for examples, (or types,) and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the end of the world is come." It is very evident that the apostle, in this passage, is speaking of the travel of the children of Israel through the wilderness, and their entrance into the promised land, or their coming out of the wilderness, as a type or resemblance of the Christian church in these last days.
Therefore, we are allowed by the inspired apostles to use their journey and acts, to illustrate and show the present state of the church, if we can gain any instruction thereby.
The Jews had a promise that they should inherit the land of Canaan; the Christian, that he shall inherit the earth--"For the meek shall inherit the earth;" and "The kingdom, and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High." The Jews used carnal weapons in their wars with the inhabitants; the church are commanded to use spiritual ones, to the pulling down of the strong-holds, &c. They were led by their temporal Joshua; the church, by her spiritual leader. The Jews conquered by sending out their chosen and expert men with the sword; the church has sent forth her chosen missionaries, expert men with the sword of the Spirit, which is the "word of God."
The Jews had great success in conquering their enemies when they first came out of the wilderness; even so the church has had her unexpected success in her missionary efforts. The Jews, within twenty years, became a proud, haughty, and an idolatrous people, ascribing all their success to their own power; and mingling themselves with the nations around them, they began to bow down to their gods, and worship Baalim, and Ashtaroth; just so, and in about the same time, since the cause of missions began to succeed, has the church become proud and haughty, publishing her donations upon the house-top, mixing her moral questions with the political partizans of the day, and courting the applause of men more than obeying the voice of God: she is preparing for a sudden overthrow, a signal defeat.
The church is evidently worshipping her god Baalim; her teachers are seeking to be called by great names, such as A. B., A. M., B. D., D. D., or Rev., &c; to lord it over each other, and to be called master. See the meaning of the word Baalim, idols, masters, false gods. It is equally as evident, that she is bowing herself to the god Ashtaroth, flocks, the sheep, riches.
Where, in the history of the church, can we find a time that the people called Christians were, apparently, engaged after the riches of this world as now? Then, the agreement, in almost every thing, between the Jews, when they came out of the wilderness, and the church at the present day, holds good, and proves clearly to me that the church is now out of the wilderness. If it is not so, When, I ask, since the apostles' days, has the church been out of the wilderness? Instead, then, of being in the wilderness only 1260 years, she evidently has been 1800 years in the wilderness; and this prophecy has failed, or has no meaning.
What greater privileges did the church ever enjoy than now? Were their privileges among the nations of the earth greater, even in the days of the Roman emperors, under the nursing care of Constantine and his sons? I answer, No. Then, surely, the church is now out of the wilderness, and has been nearly or quite forty years. If so, then the 1260 years of the reign of anti-Christ to give the court of the Gentiles to be trodden under foot have ended.
Then, the two witnesses, prophesying, clothed in sackcloth, 1260 years have ended. Then, also, has the civil power of the anti-Christian beast, to rule over the kings of the earth forty-two months, been taken from the beast.
Then, also, has the "time, times and a half," mentioned in Daniel vii. 25, and xii. 7, had its fulfilment, "to the end of these wonders." And now, the anti-Christian beast will no longer be able to deceive the nations with her false miracles, or make the kings of the earth acknowledge her power as supreme. They have eaten her flesh; they have made her drink her own blood; her great men have departed from her; they are casting dust on their heads, crying, "Alas! alas! that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come." "And when she shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished," Dan. xii. 7. This beast has but one more work to perform--"to scatter the power of the holy people; to divide, that she may conquer. It is the last gasp of the expiring monster; it is the dying struggle of the man of sin. And, for a little moment, they will succeed. For the church must be humbled; she has departed from her Lord, she has grown proud of her worldly connections, she has become haughty, and lording it over the heritage of the Lord. She must be divided. She is already. She must be scattered, shaken like grain in the winnowing-fan, that that which cannot be shaken may remain. She will be delivered when her Lord returns to the wedding, and sends forth his angels to gather his elect from the four winds of heaven, where they have been scattered in the dark and cloudy day. Then will he destroy the man of sin by the brightness of his coming. Then, too, will the little horn cease making war with the saints, and no longer prevail against them. The Ancient of days will come, and judgment will be given to the saints of the Most High; and the time will have come when the saints, in union with their spiritual Joshua, will enter into that eternal Sabbath of rest which remains for the people of God.
Nothing can be more clear, or self-evident, than that the church is combating the great natural and moral evils, which men in this state of sin are prone to commit. What shall we make of all these societies which the church have instituted since she came out of the wilderness, but so many attacks upon the enemies of the land?
The Bible society, instituted since 1798. This has proved a powerful weapon to expel the moral darkness from the mind of the unenlightened, to open the prison of the votaries of superstition, and to knock off the shackles of bigotry. We have seen, in our day, Deism humbled from a haughty tyrant to a cringing sycophant. We have seen Romanism, from a monarch ruling over the souls and bodies of men with an absolute sway, become a slave, a follower in the wake of Protestants, in publishing and circulating the Scriptures. The Deists, a few years since, had the control of nine tenths of all Europe; now, not a petty kingdom under their control: the Roman church, for centuries past the mistress of most of the kings of Europe, now a poor dependant on the breath of kings.
Our missionary societies have carried the banners of the cross where hope never smiled before, nor faith ever lighted the cheerless sky of the heathen's land. And we have seen nations hearing the word of God, and islands converted to the faith of the gospel of Christ.
Temperance societies. We have seen the attack upon intemperance, the Anakim of our world, and we have heard the shout of triumph from every quarter of the globe. Rapid, indeed, was the march to victory! Again, our moral reform societies, our Sabbath schools, Bible classes, &c. &c., are all so many attacks on moral evil, which have produced, in many cases, wonderful effects; so much so, that it has astonished even the projectors themselves.
These aggravated sins are falling before the all-conquering weapon of God's word, like the walls of Jericho before the blasts of the trumpets; and it will go on conquering and to conquer, until tyranny, oppression, and slavery, in every form, shall be destroyed. Perhaps nothing, at the present time, impedes the progress of these things so much as the popular spirit, the pride, and arrogance of the church herself. She is, more or less, courting the applause of the world. She is mingling her holy religion with the opinions and principles of men. She is proud and self-sufficient, doting upon her own works, and forgetting her dependence on God. If this should be the true state of the church, God may suffer tyrants to remain as a scourge to the church, "as a rod for the fool's back."
This was literally the case with the Jewish church, after she came out of the wilderness; and every appearance seems to betoken the like spirit in the church at the present day. O that we could be wise, and learn, by the example set us by the Jews, that pride and self-sufficiency are always before a fall!
I know the objector will say, How can it be true, that the church is spreading her banners over a large portion of the world, sending her missionaries and the Bible into every nook and corner of the habitable globe, conquering and to conquer; and, at the same time, growing more and more impure herself, becoming haughty, self-righteous, and ungrateful, corrupt and lukewarm in her faith and practice, idolatrous in her worship, and cold and indifferent to her first love? This, say they, is paradoxical.
I answer, Paradoxical as it may seem, it is no less true. Have I not shown that the Jews were thus paradoxical, when they entered the promised land? Do not the description Solomon hath given us of the church in his Songs, the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians and Galatians, and the history of the church in the days of Constantine, all go to show, that when the church has been most prospered in her worldly standing with the nations, with whom she may come in contact, she has the more deeply corrupted herself?
This does not argue that she ought not to spread her banners, send her missionaries, translate and circulate Bibles, educate the rising generation, establish her moral societies, and do all, and every work, which God in his word has commanded; but it argues that the church is imperfect, and that, in times of prosperity, she ought to consider,
1st. Her proneness to idolatry, her liability to self-righteousness, her excessive love for the world, the temptations on every hand.
2dly. She ought to consider that adversity is set over against prosperity, that her faith may be tried, her motives sifted, the body purified, and the sanctuary cleansed.
3d. She ought to consider that the designs of God will be accomplished, that the work must be executed, that all power centres in him; and, although the church may be proud, self-righteous, and deeply corrupted by unbelief and sin, yet God will eventually be glorified, his kingdom established, his will done in earth as in heaven; and the time is at hand, when the saints will possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.