« PoprzedniaDalej »
ces of all men, was employed to make them submit to their temporal sovereignties, while they supported his spiritual sovereignty, which they were induced to do by means of the wonders which he performed, or miracles which he pretended to work in their presence, having prevailed with them all to make an image of himself, each in his own territory, he had power, not only to give life to the image, but to make it speak, and also to cause that as many as would not worship itself should be killed; that is, to put to death every one who would not submit to the established religion. All this was awfully verified in the history of Europe for many hundred years. The image of the beast,-the established church in each of the kingdoms, had power to bring to trial all who were suspected of heresy; that is, all who really believed Christ's gospel; and on being convicted, they were delivered over to the secular power to be burnt to death; and such was the degraded condition of kings and governors, that they were obliged to be the church's executioners.
It would seem now that the devil had fully accomplished his purpose. He had filled the whole civilized world with superstition, idolatry, and all their abominable accompaniments; for while he had covered the western empire with the darkness of popery, he had filled the eastern one with the delusions of Mahomet. All the nations which, in the first and second centuries, had received the light of the gospel; that is, all the then known world, was now made subject to the devil by one or other of these deceptions; and bound down to absolute submission, by a power as irresistible as was that of Babylon in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, or that of Rome under Julius Cæsar. Other parts of the world, as they were successively discovered, were found in a state of still greater misery and degradation, their inhabitants in the state of naked savages, sacrificing one another, and their own children, to avert the wrath, and propitiate the favour, of their demon divinities. Were it possible for a fiend to enjoy satisfaction, we might suppose the devil now glorying in the success of his work, in having blotted out the knowledge of God from the earth, and making the earth itself a blot in his fair creation.
This state of things, as relates to what is called Christendom, is the more astonishing when we reflect, that it took place
after the true light had come into the world, and had been shining with great brightness, in the very places which were now covered with darkness. The light of the knowledge of the true God, and of the promised Saviour, shone in the family of Noah, and was continued in the line of Shem. It was comparatively obscure, though enough to guide the steps of the patriarchs in the way to heaven. The great part of the human race fell away from it again, as they had done before. the flood; because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, wherefore he gave them up to the way they had chosen for themselves-to all the darkness and misery of heathenism. But when Christ came with the full manifestation of the Father's glory, as the just God and the Saviour; when he had given himself for the life of the world; when he had risen from the dead, and gone into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God; when he had sent the Holy Spirit to endue his apostles with power from on high; in short, when the Sun of righteousness had risen upon us,-had become a light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel; --and when multitudes without number, in all nations of the known world, had been taught to glory in that light, it might have been expected, that, surely, these nations would never come under the power of darkness again. But however astounding the thought, it so happened, in point of fact, darkness as palpable as ever, covered the earth, and gross darkness the people.
It is not surprising that the speculative mind should be startled, and even confounded, by the knowledge of such a fact. It is not surprising that it should excite the inquiry, Can this light be from heaven which the devil has been able to darken, and almost to extinguish, after it had begun to shine on the earth? The fact, deplorable as it is, so far from invalidating the evidence of the divine origin of Christianity, Is itself a strong corroborative proof of that divine origin; for the inspired record of the Christian faith contains many intimations, and explicit predictions, that such an event should happen. God was pleased to suffer it to be so, we cannot tell why, just as we cannot tell why he suffered sin at first to enter into our then unpolluted world. We know that he took occasion from this, to make new manifestation of his character, by the revelation of the gospel; and I have no doubt he will, when the appointed time
has come, make the devil's apparent triumph in the long prevalence of popery redound to his own glory in a manner which we cannot conceive. And it is a matter of no small importance that this very apostasy proves the divine inspiration of the New Testament, which foretels not only that there should be a falling away, but also describes the character of it with such particularity, that every one may see in the system of popery, what the apostles foretold hundreds of years before it arose. See 2 Thessalonians ii. 2-12. and 1 Timothy iv. 1-3.
But it must not be admitted that the devil actually effected the extinction of the truth from the earth. There can be no doubt that such was his purpose; and he had so nearly accomplished it, that during ages of darkness, there was no spiritual light visible to the world. Where it did shine it was in some sequestered spot, out of the reach of the ruling powers of the world and of the church. There are traces of it upon the mountains of Scotland for a long period after darkness had covered continental Europe; and before it was extinguished here, it had begun to shine in the vallies of Piedmont. This was so near the seat of the papal power, that it attracted notice; and the greatest efforts were made to extinguish it.
The appearance for the truth made by the people called Waldenses and Albigenses, as early as the twelfth century, showed the devil again foiled and disappointed. By deceit he had prevailed tenfold more than he had formerly done by violence. But now a few rays of light breaking in upon the dark hemisphere, in the very centre of his kingdom, he found that mere deception would not longer serve his purpose. He had tried mere violence before, and that had failed; now deceit was beginning to fail him; and his last resource was to unite both in one mighty effort to extirpate the truth, and perpetuate his own dominion over the bodies and souls of men.
Deceit and violence were united against the truth when what was called, and almost universally taken for, Christ's church, became a persecutor, or the chief instigator of persecution against Christ's true disciples. The opposition of both Jews and Gentiles to the gospel was open and honest, for they avowed themselves its enemies; and there were no doubt others who thought, like Saul of Tarsus, that they ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus. But now the grand deception was to
make Christ himself, in the person of his Vicar, as the pope was acknowledged to be, issue his mandates to sovereign princes, to levy war upon their subjects, and to extirpate, by fire and sword, men, women, and children, who were infected with the plague of heresy, or even suspected of it; and any one who read, or possessed a copy of the word of God, fell under the suspicion. Armies were accordingly raised for the noly war, as it was called. They took the figure of the cross for their banner, to make the world believe they were fighting for Christ and they went forward to the slaughter with priestly benedictions, and a promise of heaven as the reward of their labours. The slaughter of the unoffending peaceable Christians was indeed horrible, accompanied by the coldblooded deceitful mockery, that it was all for Christ's sake.
Scotland was one of the last of the kingdoms that submitted to the Roman yoke, and she was one of the first to throw it off. As a political measure, the reformation of England preceded that of Scotland a number of years; but in a religious view, it gained ground more extensively among the Scots while the court was against it, than it did in England with the court in its favour. In England it originated with the court, which gave it a character of secularity, and worldly splendour, which remains to this day. In Scotland it originated with the people, including some of the nobles, and found its way upward to the court, which after a hard struggle, was compelled to give way, and to establish the protestant faith and order, in that simple and unostentatious form which was most agreeable to the people. This was not effected without much bloodshed. Deceit and violence in their cruelest forms, were employed by the image of the beast, whose seat was in St. Andrews, to extinguish the light of the reformation. But the devil was eventually foiled in the use of both his instruments; at least for a time; for he made an attack again in a new character.
This was no less than an attempt to get himself taken for a Protestant, and a mighty zealous one he made himself appear. The church of Scotland had been stript of all her meretricious ornaments, and most of her wealth. Her ministers were no longer ministers of state, or lords of parliament; but plain honest men, and laborious preachers, with stipends barely sufficient for their maintenance, in a rank scarcely equal to that of respectable farmers and tradesmen. There were no splendid
rites of worship, to fix the attention of the stupid and ignorant, or to keep awake the drowsy. In short, the ministrations of the church were all addressed to the understanding, and to the hearts of the people; and what was worst of all, the people were taught to understand more both of religion and their own rights than was agreeable to their rulers. The policy of the devil then was to animate these rulers with a high degree of zeal for the honour of the protestant church of Scotland. Her mean condition in the eye of the world was most disgraceful. That her ministers should speak to God in their prayers, and to men in their preaching, whatever occurred to their own heated imaginations, was quite unsufferable. It therefore became necessary to have a set form of words, ordained by royal authority, for their prayers at least ; and to prevent im proper freedom of speech in their preaching, it was thought fit to have a high order of clergy, the king's particular friends, politically his own creatures, set over the ordinary pastors to make them obedient to authority. It was also most unseemly that the church had no representatives in parliament; and no clergy, who, in point of rank and dignity, were fit companions for a king. It was out of burning zeal for the glory of the church, and the honour of protestantism in Scotland, that king James VI. set himself to rectify these evils. Accordingly he got the order of bishops imposed upon the church. They were advanced to be lords of council and parliament; and a great part of the property that had been wrested from the papists, was set apart for the support of their dignity. The church of Scotland was now able to hold up her head like her proud sister of England; and she was invested with a degree of splendour worthy of the "high and mighty prince," who placed himself at her head.
But this was in direct opposition to the wishes of the great body of the people; and was found by the really godly among them to be a grievous bondage. It was for resisting this imposition that such men as Melville and Welsh suffered imprisonment and exile; and afterwards that thousands of presbyterians suffered on the gibbet, or were slaughtered in cold blood, by armed savages, who were set a hunting after them, as if they had been wild beasts, fit only to be taken and destroyed. This applies particularly to the persecution of the Covenanters in the reign of Charles II. and of his brother