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The reign of infidelity is not yet passed ; and never, perhaps, was there any age in which religion exercised less general influence over the minds of men than the present, and that which has immediately preceded it. The chief end of man has departed from his view. Men mind earthly things with a zeal and fervour, and to a degree, that might make angels as well as an apostle weep. The world receives the homage of millions. And death, it is to be feared, has not ceased to be the spiritual characteristic of the times. How numerous, or how few, are they who keep the first great commandment of the law, render unto God the glory that is due unto his name, acknowledge him in all their ways, and love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their strength, and with all their mind ? Where is pure and undefiled religion-where the godliness becoming the Christian doctrine—where the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace—where the mutual love by which believers would be known of all men—and where are they who seek the things that are Christ's rather than their own ? The moral pestilence of infidelity, which bears death to the soul, has spread far and wide-but no sanatory cordon is sought to encircle men around, nor do they wash within and make them clean, by the faith in Jesus and the word of God, which would turn the livid hue into the look of life, and take from the death-plague of the soul all power of hurting. Take heed, brethren, said the apostle, in times and to persons when and to whom the warning was not more needed than now,--take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, whilst it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. This, at least, is not the place where such a scriptural exhortation should pass unnoticed; and this at least is not the time when the application of the precept should be laid aside to a more convenient season. Natural religion, which so many ape after, is nothing but death to sinful men. It is to Christ, that all
who hear the gospel have to come that they may be saved. This is the condemnation that light hath come into the world, and that men love darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil. But there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.— The last look of Robespierre told something of the death that follows with infidelity. But whosoever followeth Jesus has the light of life, and shall never taste of death.
PRIMITIVE Christianity, white as the unsunned snow; Mahometanism, red as the blood-stained murderer; Popery, dark as the blackest midnight; and Infidelity, pale as death, were figuratively unsealed by the Son of God in the beginning of the Revelation, of the things that were to be thereafter. And they unfold the spiritual state of man from that time to the present hour. But his own faithful people, however few comparatively, were not forgotten by the Lord. And he who could thus decipher spiritual wickedness in all its character, and detect it in all its guises, and trace it in all its progress, was not unmindful of the faith and patience of his saints. The perfecting of them, aswell as the punishment of iniquity, was, perhaps, the end for which evil was permitted, and the final triumph of Christianity, ultimately the more glorious, delayed. The next seal-still discriminatingly descriptive of spiritual things alone, but in which no other form of religion appears, and no succession, in point of time—is denoted, is evidently, in the first instance, retrospective ; and no less clear than the rest, it marks the trials and sufferings of the servants of Jesus, during the long-continued operation of the mystery of iniquity. As
As at the opening of the third, distinguished from the second, the object was immediately in the apostle's view.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held : and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them ; and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. Ver. 9–11.
Here, as illustrative of the past, in noting the fulfilment down to the present time, we need only remark, that, from the earliest to the latest period, the conflict through which Christians have to pass in fighting the good fight of faith, and being faithful unto the death, is set forth to view, as well as the sure triumph of the faith in which they lived, and for which the martyrs died. The early persecutions to which Christians were subjected, and by which paganism hoped to triumph over the gospel ; the oft repeated conflicts and patient endurance of the Valdenses and Albigenses, by which, throughout the darkest ages, they bore testimony to their faith ; the renewed martyrdoms which ushered in the Reformation, by which the papal power sought to maintain its dark dominion, seemed for the time, as if the Christian faith was devoted to destruction, and not destined to conquer: but the fidelity with which they were borne, shewed the efficacy of genuine faith and forms a peculiar feature in the spiritual history of man, and is here noted in the vision, as it is otherwise repeatedly and more fully unfolded. Of the final triumph of Christianity, however long delayed, there cannot, from manifold predictions, be a doubt. But it may here be remarked, that it is after the last enemy of the church of Christ hath appeared in the pale and spectral form of infidelity, that it is said unto the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. Warning seems thus to be given, that persecution, even unto death, may yet await the faithful in Jesus. But the full import of this and the following seal, may remain to be made manifest as the signs of other times; and they may best be viewed connectedly with other predictions. The retrospect of the spiritual state of the world brings us down to the border of events the most momentous.
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake ; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood ; and the stars of heaven fell from the earth, even as á fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together ; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every
and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains ; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand ? ver. 12, &c. To complete the outline of the religious state of the world, as connected with Christianity, is, we apprehend, the purpose of the immediately succeeding vision (chap. vii.), descriptive of the partial and simultaneous conversion of many of the Jews and Israelites, for which the universal war is on every side suspended or delayed, previous to the last great catastrophe, which shall decide the fate of the world, and the triumph of the church.
It seems remarkable, that it should ever have been doubted, that such an obvious interpretation, as now