Page images
PDF
EPUB

heart; while the daring audacity and presumptuous confidence with which they were propagated, invested them with a semblance of truth, and gained for a season many proselytes. But at length the delusion ended.

The fallacy, the danger, the wickedness of the new doctrines, were exposed and reprobated. The nation awaked out of its stupor. It rallied round the throne and the altar: and the clamorous apostles of this modern liberty, restrained by the seasonable arm of the law, and condemned by the public voice, no longer dared to open their mouths, or to lift up their heads. The victory was, at the time, complete. But to what cause, under God, was this triumph to be ascribed? Doubtless there were many conspiring causes which might contribute to produce this effect. But, after making every reasonable allowance in favour of the rest, the one to which unquestionably the chief place is to be assigned, was the operation of those principles which had taken root at the Reformation; and which, though checked, were not eradicated; though thwarted, had not utterly lost their vigour. Fostered by these principles, there was still a vitality in the system; a spring of right feeling, which needed only to be duly touched, in order to exert itself. Powerful beyond all calculation was the

assistance which, at this crisis, the cause of order and government derived from the past diffusion of the Scriptures, and of scriptural knowledge among the people. Here was an authority which they had been taught and accustomed to recognise; to which an appeal might be now made; and to which in this emergency the appeal was not made in vain. The triumph over jacobinism was, in fact, the triumph of the Bible. It was the triumph of Protestant principles. The enemy had come in like a flood; but the Spirit of the Lord lifted up a standard against him.

[ocr errors]

Let it, then, be remembered, and remembered with gratitude and joy,—that as England was the only one of the original kingdoms of the Beast, which at the Reformation had renounced communion with Rome; so she was the only one of them whose principles were found sufficient, in this day of rebuke and blasphemy, to withstand the assault, and maintain her post. And what were the subsequent dealings of Providence towards her, throughout the whole of the eventful period of visitation which ensued? While every Papal country was, more or less, devastated by war; while every Papal throne was, in succession, overturned, England was highly favoured and upheld. No hostile army landed on her shores. She felt not the

ravages of an invading enemy. Her ancient institutions were all preserved. It is true, that she was not wholly unpunished. In the long and arduous contest in which she was necessarily engaged, she was called to endure many privations and sacrifices. Her treasures and her blood were profusely shed. But, compared with the sufferings of the Papal powers, the visitations which fell upon her, resembled only those which are inflicted by the skirts of the tempest. While it swept, with desolating fury, and in aweful blackness, the kingdoms of the Beast, England "had light in her habitations, and felt not the storm of hail."

But it was not in this way alone that God manifested his distinguishing favour towards this country, during the period of which we are now speaking. While He delivered her from the destructive effects of revolutionary principles and revolutionary war, He was pleased also to over-rule and sanctify the eventful circumstances of the times to her moral and religious improvement. Here was a most decided and obvious distinction in his dealings with England, and in those with the Papal kingdoms.

What signs, it may be asked, did the Papal kingdoms exhibit, throughout their severe and protracted judgments, of any amelioration in

their moral and religious state? Did they renounce and abjure any one error of Popery? Did they cast their idols of silver and gold "to the moles and to the bats?" Did they desist from their habitual profanation of the Lord's day? Did they cease to oppose the free circulation of the word of God? Did they give any indications of an improved tone of religious feeling, of a growing attention to the spiritual interests of themselves and others, under their heavy visitations? It is notorious that none of these things took place.* The prophetic re

* In support of the allegations contained in this passage, an appeal may again be made to Mr. Southey's History of the Peninsular War. It is not possible to read, in the details of that interesting writer, the account of the loyalty and patriotism, the magnanimity and heroism displayed by the Spanish people in their unequal struggle with Napoleon, without feelings of the warmest admiration and sympathy. But at the same time, we should not suffer ourselves to be so dazzled with the brilliancy of their achievements, or with the splendid narrative of the historian, as to be insensible to the light, in which the Christian philosopher must contemplate, or an inspired writer would have represented, the events of that memorable period. The blind pertinacity and devotion with which the inhabitants of the Peninsula continued, even under the immediate pressure of their most severe visitations, to cleave to their unscriptural superstitions; and the idolatrous confidence which they still placed and avowed in their altars and images, in their saints and relics, — not only demonstrate to the mind which is accustomed to interpret the dispensations of Providence by a reference

[ocr errors]

presentation to St. John, of the state of the kingdom of the Beast, during the effusion of the Fourth and Fifth Vials of Wrath, to which reference has been already made, most awefully accords with its actual state during the period to which our remarks refer. "And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues and they repented not, to give Him glory;" and "the kingdom of the Beast was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain; and blasphemed the God of heaven, because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds." *

In the mean while let us turn our eyes on this privileged country; and what do we there see? We see the Spirit poured out from on high, and producing such fruits as evidence the work to be His. We see a considerable revival of religion progressively advancing, and expelling that apathy and indifference, which before the French Revolution so generally prevailed. Those peculiar doctrines of our reformers, which,

to the written word, the real causes of these aggravated sufferings; but also furnish ground for applying to these impenitent nations the criminating remark of the sacred historian, "In the time of their distress did they trespass still more against the Lord."

* Rev. xvi. 9, 10, 11.

« PreviousContinue »