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ever known to be paid to any other person or
thing in the compass of universal history, as
must strike an awe into the hearts of all men,
who consider Christianity in this point of view;
and must compel the most negligent to confess,
or suspect at least, That such a dispensation is
a matter of no light moment, but, indeed, the
most important in the eyes of Providence, and
the most interesting to mankind, that can be
conceived, or expressed.

If, then, there be reason, to admit the completion of such prophecies, respecting such a subject, in any considerable number of instances, within that space of time which is already elapsed; and, therefore, to expect that the remaining prophecies will, in like manner, be fulfilled, The conclusion is, that the dispensation of God through Christ is of the last consequence to the inhabitants of this world : And the obvious use of this conclusion will be, that it further obliges all serious men who have thus far profited by a study of the sacred oracles, to put that salutary question to themselves - How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvationc?

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II. A second is, That it sets before us, not the importance only, but the truth of Christianity, in the strongest light.

So many illustrious events falling in, one after another, just as the word of prophecy foretold they should, must afford the most convincing proof, That our Religion is, as it claims to be, of divine institution: a proof, the more convincing, because it is continually growing upon us; and, the farther we are removed from the source of our religion, the clearer is the evidence of its truth. Other proofs are supposed to be, and, in some degree, perhaps, are, weakened by a length of time. But this, from prophecy, as if to make amends for their defects, hath the peculiar privilege of strengthening by age itself: till hereafter, as we presume, the accumulated force of so much evidence shall overpower all the scruples of infidelity; and bring about, at length, that general conversion both of Jew and Gentile, which the sacred oracles have so expressly foretold.

In both these ways, then, by impressing on the mind the most affecting sense of Christianity; that is, by giving us, first, the most awful view of its pretensions, and then, by


producing the firmest conviction of its truth, SERMON the word of prophecy hath an evident tendency, in proportion as we see its accomplishment, to promote the great ends, for which it was given, till the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and all the inhabitants of the world shall learn righteousness d.

These uses are general, and concern all men: The

III. Next, I shall mention, is more especially addressed to thinking and inquisitive


When the view of things, exhibited under the two preceding articles, has raised our ad·miration, to the utmost, of the divine councils in contriving, preparing, and at length executing so vast a scheme, as that of Christianity, for the benefit of mankind; we are led to expect that the effect will correspond to the means employed, and that a striking change will, at length, be brought about in the condition of the moral world.

d Hab, ii, 14. Is. xxvi, 9,


But, in surveying the history of this new religion, the theme of so many prochecies, and the great, the favourite object, if I may so speak, of divine Providence, “ some are not a little scandalized to observe that nothing hath come to pass in any degree equivalent to such an expence of forethought and contrivance; that, for a season, indeed, virtue and piety seemed to triumph, in the exemplary lives of the first converts to this religion, and in the overthrow of Pagan idolatry; but that this golden age was soon over; and that, now, for more than fourteen hundred years, the passions of men have kept their usual train, or rather have expatiated with more licence and fury in the Christian world, than in the Pagan; that idolatry, in all its forms, has revived in the bosom. of Christianity; and, as to private morals, that this Religion has even made men worse than it found them, or, at best, of corrupt sensualists, has only made them intolerant and vindictive bigots ; that, in a word, the kingdom of heaven, as it is called, has, hitherto, neither served to the glory of God, nor to the good of mankind; at least, to neither of these ends, in the degree, that might have been expected from such high pretensions.”





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The colouring of this picture, we will say, is too strong : but the outline, at least, is fairly given. The corruptions of the Christian world have been notorious and great'; and though they are indeed the corruptions of men calling themselves Christians, and not the vices of Christianity, yet he who the most dispassionately contemplates so sad a scene, can hardly reconcile appearances to what must have been his natural expectations.


Here, then, the prophecies of this book, I mean, of the Apocalypse, come in to our relief. This book contains a detailed account of what would befall mankind under this last and so much magnified dispensation. It foretells all that history has recorded. It sets before us the corrupt state of the Christian world in almost as strong a light, as that in which our indignant speculatist himself has placed it. But it, likewise, opens better things to our view. It shews, that the end of this dispensation is to promote virtue and happiness; and that this end shall finally, but through many and long obstructions, be accomplished. It represents the cause of righteousness, as still maintaining itself in all the conflicts, to which it is exposed; as gradually gaining ground, and prevailing, through the secret aid of divine

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