Jonathan Edwards Collection: Edwards, Jonathan - History of Redemption: 11b Period 3 Part 2 (Cont'd)

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Jonathan Edwards Collection: Edwards, Jonathan - History of Redemption: 11b Period 3 Part 2 (Cont'd)



TOPIC: Edwards, Jonathan - History of Redemption (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 11b Period 3 Part 2 (Cont'd)

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(3.) Heathenism now was in a great measure abolished throughout the Roman  empire. Images were now destroyed, and heathen temples pulled down. Images of gold  and silver were melted down, and coined into money. Some of the chief of their idols,  which were curiously wrought, were brought to Constantinople, and there drawn with  ropes up and down the streets for the people to behold and laugh at. The heathen priests  were dispersed and banished.

(4.) The Christian church was brought into a state of great peace and prosperity.  Now all heathen magistrates were put down, and only Christians were advanced to  places of authority all over the empire. They had now Christian presidents, Christian  governors, Christian judges and officers, instead of their old heathenish ones.  Constantine set himself to put honor upon Christian bishops or ministers, and to build  and adorn churches. And now large and beautiful Christian churches were erected in all  parts of the world, instead of the old heathen temples.

This revolution was the greatest revolution and change in the face of things that ever  came to pass in the world since the flood. Satan, the prince of darkness, that king and  god of the heathen world, was cast out. The roaring lion was conquered by the Lamb of  God, in the strongest dominion that ever he had, even the Roman empire. This was a  remarkable accomplishment of Jer. 10:11, “The gods that have not made the heavens and  the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” The  chief part of the world was now brought utterly to cast off their old gods and their old  religion, to which they had been accustomed much longer than any of their histories give  an account of. They had been accustomed to worship the gods so long, that they knew  not any beginning of it. It was formerly spoken of as a thing unknown for a nation to  change their gods, Jer. 2:10, 11, but now the greater part of the nations of the known  world were brought to cast off all their former gods. That multitude of gods that they  worshipped were all forsaken. Thousands of them were cast away for the worship of the  true God, and Christ the only Savior. And there was a most remarkable fulfillment of  that in Isa. 2:17, 18, “And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness  of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols  he shall utterly abolish.” And since that, it has come to pass, that those gods that were  once so famous in the world, as Jupiter, and Saturn, and Minerva, and Juno, etc. are only  heard of as things which were of old. They have no temples, no altars, no worshippers,  and have not had for many hundred years.

Now is come the end of the old heathen world in the principal part of it, the Roman  empire. And this great revolution and change of the state of the world, with that terrible  destruction of the great men who had been persecutors, is compared, in Rev. 6, to the  end of the world, and Christ’s coming to judgment, and is what is most immediately  signified under the sixth seal, which followed upon the souls under the altar crying,  “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not avenge our blood on them that dwell on  the earth?” This vision of the sixth seal, by the general consent of divines and expositors,  has respect to this downfall of the heathen Roman empire. Though it has a more remote  respect to the day of judgment, or this was a type of it. The day of judgment cannot be  what is immediately intended, because we have an account of many events which were  to come to pass under the seventh seal, and so were to follow after those of the sixth seal.

What came to pass now is also represented by the devil’s being cast out of heaven to  the earth. In his great strength and glory, in that mighty Roman empire, he had as it were  exalted his throne up to heaven. But now he fell like lightning from heaven, and was  confined to the earth. His kingdom was confined to the meaner and more barbarous  nations, or to the lower parts of the world of mankind. This is the event foretold, Rev.  12:9, etc. “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan,  which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast  out with him,” etc. Satan tempted Christ, and promised to give him the glory of the  kingdoms of the world. But now he is obliged to give it to him even against his will. This  was a glorious fulfillment of that promise which God made to his Son, that we have an  account of in Isa. 53:12, “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he  shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death:  and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many, and made  intercession for the transgressors.” This was a great fulfillment of the prophecies of the  Old Testament concerning the glorious time of the gospel, and particularly of the  prophecies of Daniel. Now the kingdom of heaven is come in a glorious degree. It  pleased the Lord God of heaven to set up a kingdom on the ruins of Satan’s kingdom.  And such success is there of the purchase of Christ’s redemption, and such honor does  the Father put upon Christ for the disgrace he suffered when on earth. And now see to  what a height that glorious building is erected, which had been building ever since the  fall.



Inference. From what has been said of the success of the gospel from Christ’s ascension to the time of Constantine, we may deduce a strong argument of the truth of the Christian religion, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is really from God. This wonderful success of it which has been spoken of, and the circumstances of it which have been mentioned, are a strong argument of it several ways.

1. We may gather from what has been said, that it is the gospel. and that only, which has actually been the means of bringing the world to the knowledge of the true God. That those are no gods whom the heathen worshipped, and that there is but one only God, is what, now since the gospel has so taught us, we can see to be truth by our own reason. It is plainly agreeable to the light of nature. It can be easily shown by reason to be demonstrably true. The very Deists themselves acknowledge, that it can be demonstrated, that there is one God, and but one, who has made and governs the world. But now it is evident that it is the gospel, and that only, which has actually been the means of bringing men to the knowledge of this truth. It was not the instructions of philosophers. They tried in vain, “the world by wisdom knew not God.” Until the gospel and the Holy Scriptures came abroad in the world, all the world lay in ignorance of the true God, and in the greatest darkness with respect to the things of religion, embracing the most absurd opinions and practices, which all civilized nations now acknowledge to be childish fooleries. And so they lay one age after another, and nothing proved effectual to enlighten them. The light of nature, and their own reason, and all the wisdom of learned men, signified nothing until the Scriptures came. But when these came abroad, they were successful to bring the world to an acknowledgment of the one only true God, and to worship and serve him.

And hence it is that all that part of the world which now does own one only true God, Christians, Jews, Mahometans, and even Deists too, originally came by the knowledge of him. It is owing to this that they are not in general at this day left in heathenish darkness. They have it all, first of all, either immediately from the Scriptures, or by tradition from their fathers, who had it first from the Scriptures. And doubtless those who now despise the Scriptures, and boast of the strength of their own reason, as being sufficient to lead into the knowledge of the one true God, if the gospel had never come abroad in the world to enlighten their forefathers, would have been as weak and brutish idolaters as the world in general was before the gospel came abroad. The Mahometans, who own but one true God, at first borrowed the notion from the Scriptures. For the first Mahometans had been educated in the Christian religion, and apostatized from it. And this is evidential, that the Scriptures were designed of God to be the proper means to bring the world to the knowledge of himself, rather than human reason, or anything else. For it is unreasonable to suppose, that the gospel, and that only, which God never designed as the proper mean for obtaining this effect, should actually obtain it, and that after human reason, which he designed as the proper mean, had been tried for a great many ages without any effect. If the Scriptures be not the Word of God, then they are nothing but darkness and delusion, yea, the greatest delusion that ever was. Now, is it reasonable to suppose, that God in his providence would make use of falsehood and delusion, and that only, to bring the world to the knowledge of himself, and that no part of it should be brought to the knowledge of him any other way?

2. The gospel’s prevailing as it did against such powerful opposition, plainly shows the hand of God. The Roman government, that did so violently set itself to hinder the success of the gospel, and to subdue the church of Christ, Was the most powerful human government that ever was in the world. And not only so, but they seemed as it were to have the church in their hands. The Christians were mostly their subjects, under their command, and never took up arms to defend themselves they did not gather together, and stand in their own defense. They armed themselves with nothing but patience, and such like spiritual weapons. And yet this mighty power could not conquer them. But, on the contrary, Christianity conquered them. The Roman empire had subdued the world. They had subdued many mighty and potent kingdoms. They subdued the Grecian monarchy, when they were not their subjects, and made the utmost resistance. And yet they could not conquer the church which was in their hands, but, on the contrary, were subdued, and finally triumphed over by the church.

3. No other sufficient cause can possibly be assigned of this propagation of the gospel, but only God’s own power. Nothing else can be devised as the reason of it but this. There was certainly some reason. Here was a great and wonderful effect, the most remarkable change that ever was in the face of the world of mankind since the flood. And this effect was not without some cause. Now, what other cause can be devised but only the divine power? It was not the outward strength of the instruments which were employed in it. At first, the gospel was preached only by a few fishermen, who were without power and worldly interest to support them. It was not their craft and policy that produced this wonderful effect. For they were poor illiterate men. It as not the agreeableness of the story they had to tell to the notions and principles of mankind. This was no pleasant fable. A crucified God and Savior was to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness. It was not the agreeableness of their doctrines to the dispositions of men. For nothing is more contrary to the corruptions of men than the pure doctrines of the gospel. This effect therefore can have proceeded from no other cause than the power and agency of God. And if it was the power of God that was exercised to cause the gospel to prevail, then the gospel is his word. For surely God does not use his almighty power to promote a mere imposture and delusion.

4. This success is agreeable to what Christ and his apostles foretold. — Mat. 16:18, “Upon this rock will I build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” John 12:24, “Verily verily I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground, and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” And John 12:31, 32, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” John 16:8, “When he (the comforter) is come, he will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment — because the prince of this world is judged.”

So the Apostle Paul, in 1 Cor. 1:21-28 declares, how that after the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe, and that God chose the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise, and weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world, and things which are despised, yea and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are. If any man foretells a thing, very likely in itself to come to pass, from causes which can be foreseen, it is no great argument of a revelation from God. But when a thing is foretold which is very unlikely ever to come to pass, is entirely contrary to the common course of things, and yet it does come to pass just agreeable to the prediction, this is a strong argument that the prediction was from God.

Thus the consideration of the manner of the propagation and success of the gospel during the time which has been spoken of, affords great evidence that the Scriptures are the Word of God.



III. I am now to show how the success of Christ’s redemption is carried on from the time of the overthrow of the heathen Roman empire in the time of Constantine the Great, until the fall of Antichrist, and the destruction of Satan’s visible kingdom on earth, which is the third great dispensation which is in Scripture compared to Christ’s coming to judgment. This is a period wherein many great and wonderful things are brought to pass. Herein is contained a long series of wonders of divine providence towards the Christian church. The greater part of the book of Revelation is taken up in foretelling the events of this period.

The success of Christ’s purchase of redemption in this period, appears mainly at the close of it, when Antichrist comes to fall, when there will be a far more glorious success of the gospel than ever was before. And that long series of events which are before, seem to be only to prepare the way for it. And in order to a more clear view of the great works of God in accomplishing the success of Christ’s redemption, and our seeing the glory of them, it will be necessary, as we have done in the foregoing periods, to consider not only the success itself, but the opposition made to it, and the great works of Satan in this period against the church and kingdom of Christ. And therefore, in taking a view of this period, I would take notice of events which may be referred to either of these heads, viz. either to the head of Satan’s opposition to the success of Christ’s redemption, or to the head of the success of Christ’s redemption. And for the more orderly consideration of the events of this period, I would divide it into these four parts, the first reaching from the destruction of the heathen empire to the rise of Antichrist, the second, from the rise of Antichrist to the reformation in Luther’s time, the third, from thence to the present time, the fourth, from the present time, until Antichrist is fallen, and Satan’s visible kingdom on earth is destroyed.

 

First. I would consider the events of the first part of this period, reaching from the destruction of the heathen empire to the rise of Antichrist. And here, first, I would take notice of the opposition of Satan made in this space of time to the church, and, secondly, the success that the gospel had in it.

1. The opposition. Satan being cast out of his old heathen empire, the great red dragon, after so sore a conflict with Michael and his angels for the greater part of three hundred years, being at last entirely routed and vanquished, so that no place was found any more in heaven for him, but he was cast down, as it were, from heaven to the earth, yet does not give over his opposition to the woman, the church of Christ, concerning which all this conflict had been. But he is still in a rage, and renews his attempts, and has recourse to new devices against the church. The serpent, after he is cast out of heaven to the earth, casts out of his mouth water as a flood, to cause the woman to be carried away of the flood. The opposition that he made to the church of Christ before the rise of Antichrist, was principally of two sorts. It was either by corrupting the church of Christ with heresies, or by new endeavors to restore Paganism.

(1.) I would observe, that after the destruction of the heathen Roman empire, Satan infested the church with heresies. Though there has been so glorious a work of God in delivering the church from her heathen persecutors, and overthrowing the heathen empire. Yet the days of the church’s travail not being ended, and the set time of her prosperity not being yet come, as being what was to succeed the all of Antichrist, therefore the peace and prosperity which the church enjoyed in Constantine’s time, was but very short:. It was a respite, which gave the church a time of peace and silence, as it were, for half an hour, wherein the four angels held the four winds from blowing, until the servants of God should be sealed in their foreheads. But the church soon began to be greatly infested with heresies. The two principal, and those which did most infest the church, were the Arian and Pelagian heresies.

The Arians began soon after Constantine came to the throne. They denied the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ and the Holy Ghost, and maintained, that they were but mere creatures. This heresy increased more and more in the church, and prevailed like a flood, which threatened to overflow all, and entirely to carry away the church, in so much that before that age was out, that is, before the fourth century after Christ was finished, the greater part of the Christian church were become Arians. There were some emperors, the successors of Constantine, who were Arians, so that the Arians being the prevailing party, and having the civil authority on their side, did raise a great persecution against the true church of Christ, so that this heresy might well be compared to a flood out of the mouth of the serpent, which threatened to overthrow all, and quite carry away the woman.

The Pelagian heresy arose in the beginning of the next century. It began by one Pelagius, who was born in Britain. His British name was Morgan. He denied original sin, and the influence of the Spirit of God in conversion, and held the power of free will, and many other things of like tendency. And this heresy did for a while greatly infest the church. Pelagius’ principal antagonist, who wrote in defense of the orthodox faith, was Augustin.

(2.) The other kind of opposition which Satan made against the church, was in his endeavors to restore Paganism. And his first attempt to restore it in the Roman empire, was by Julian the apostate. Julian was nephew to Constantine the Great. When Constantine died, he left his empire to his three sons. And when they were dead, Julian the apostate reigned in their stead. He had been a professed Christian. But he fell from Christianity, and turned Pagan, and therefore is called the apostate. When he came to the throne, he used his utmost endeavors to overthrow the Christian church, and set up Paganism again in the empire. He put down the Christian magistrates, and set up heathens in their room. He rebuilt the heathen temples, and set up the heathen worship in the empire, and became a most notorious persecutor of the Christians, and, as is thought, against his own light. He used to call Christ, by way of reproach, the Galilean. He was killed with a lance in his wars with the Persians. When he saw that he was mortally wounded, he took a handful of his blood, and threw it up towards heaven, crying out, “Thou hast overcome, O Galilean.” And he is commonly thought by divines to have committed the unpardonable sin.

Another way that Satan attempted to restore Paganism in the Roman empire, was by the invasions and conquests of heathen nations. For in this space of time that we are upon, the Goths and Vandals, and other heathen barbarous nations, that dwelt in the north of the Roman empire, invaded the empire, and obtained great conquests, and even overran the empire, and in the fifth century took the city of Rome, and finally subdued and conquered, and took possession of the Western empire, as it was called, or the western half of the empire, and divided it amongst them, divided it into ten kingdoms, with which began the ten horns of the beast. For we are told, that the ten horns are ten kings, who should rise in the latter part of the Roman empire. These are also represented by the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image. The invasion and conquests of these heathen nations are supposed to be foretold in Revelation 8, in what came to pass under the sounding of the first four trumpets. Now these nations, who now took possession of the Western empire, were heathens, so that by their means heathenism was again for a while restored after it had been rooted out.

So much for the opposition of Satan against the success of the gospel during this space before the rise of Antichrist. I proceed,

2. To show what success there was of the gospel in this space, notwithstanding this opposition.

(1.) I would observe, that the opposition of Satan in those things was baffled. Though the dragon cast out of his mouth such a flood after the woman to carry her away, yet he could not obtain his design. But the earth helped the woman, and opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. These heresies, which for a while so much prevailed, yet after a while dwindled away, and orthodoxy was again restored. And his attempt by Julian was baffled at his death.

(2.) The gospel, during this space of time, was further propagated amongst many barbarous heathen nations in the confines of the Roman empire. In the time of Constantine there was a considerable propagation of the gospel in the East Indies, chiefly by the ministry of one Frumentius. Great numbers of the Iberians, an heathen people, were converted to Christianity by a Christian woman of eminent piety, whom they had taken captive. And some account is given of several other barbarous nations who were not within the Roman empire, that great numbers of them were brought to receive the gospel by the teaching and examples of captives whom they had taken in war. And after this, about the year of Christ 372, the gospel was propagated among the barbarous people that dwelt in Arabia, as it was also among some of the northern nations, particularly a prince of the country of the Goths about this time became Christian, and a great number of his people with him. Towards the latter end of this century, the gospel was also further propagated among the Persians, and also the Scythians, a barbarous people, that the apostle mentions in Col. 3:11, “Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free.”

And after this, about the year 430, there was a remarkable conversion of a heathen people, called the Burgundians, to the Christian faith. About the same time, in this age, the gospel began to be propagated in Ireland. And the Irish, who until now had been heathen, began to receive the Christian faith. About the same time it was further propagated among some barbarous people in Scotland, and also in some other places. In the next century to this, one Zathus, a heathen king, who ruled over a people called the Colchians, was brought to renounce his heathenism, and to embrace the Christian religion. Several other barbarous nations are recorded to have renounced heathenism and embraced Christianity about this time, that I cannot stand to mention.

Thus I have briefly considered the principal events or providence which concern the success of the gospel of Christ from Constantine to the rise of Antichrist.



Second. I come now to the second part of the time from Constantine to the destruction of Antichrist, viz. that which reaches from the rise of Antichrist to the Reformation by Luther and others. And this is the darkest and most dismal day that ever the Christian church saw, and probably the darkest that ever it will see. The time of the church’s affliction and persecution, as was observed before, is from Christ’s resurrection until the destruction of Antichrist, excepting what the day is, as it were, shortened by some intermissions and times of respite, which God gives for the elect’s sake. But this time, from the rise of Antichrist until the Reformation, was a space wherein the Christian church was in its greatest depth of depression, and its darkest time of all. The true church in this space was for many hundred years in a state of great obscurity, like the woman in the wilderness. Indeed she was almost hid from sight and observation. In speaking of the events of this space of time, I would, 1. Take notice of the great machinations and works of the devil against the kingdom of Christ during this time, 2. How the church of Christ was upheld during this time.

I. I would take notice of the great works of the devil against the kingdom of Christ during this time. Satan had done great things against the Christian church before, but had been baffled once and again. Michael and his angels had obtained a glorious victory. How terrible was his opposition during the continuance of the heathen empire; and how glorious was Christ’s victory and triumph over him in the time of Constantine! It pleased God now to prepare the way for a yet more glorious victory over him, to suffer him to renew his strength, and to do the utmost that his power and subtlety can help him to. And therefore he suffers him to have a long time to lay his schemes, and to establish his interest, and make his matters strong, and suffers him to carry his designs a great length indeed, almost to the swallowing up of his church, and to exercise a high, and proud, and almost uncontrolled dominion in the world, a long time before Christ finally conquers, and subdues, and utterly ruing his visible kingdom on earth, as he will do in the time of the destruction of Antichrist, thus gloriously triumphing over him after he has done the utmost that his power and subtlety can extend to, and showing that he is above him, after he has dealt most proudly, and lifted himself highest of all.

The two great works of the devil which he in this space of time wrought against the kingdom of Christ, are his creating his Antichristian and Mahometan kingdoms, which have been, and still are, two kingdoms, of great extent and strength, both together swallowing up the ancient Roman empire, the kingdom of Antichrist swallowing up the Western empire, and Satan’s Mahometan kingdom the Eastern empire. As the Scriptures in the book of Revelation represent it, it is in the destruction of these that the glorious victory of Christ, at the introduction of the glorious times of the church, will mainly consist. And here let us briefly observe how Satan erects and maintains these two great kingdoms of his in opposition to the kingdom of Christ.

(1.) With respect to the kingdom of Antichrist. This seems to be the masterpiece of all the contrivances of the devil against the kingdom of Christ, and is evidently so spoken of in Scripture, and therefore Antichrist is the man of sin, or that man of sin, 2 Thes. 2:3. He is so called emphatically, as though he were so eminently. So he is called Antichrist, which signifies the opponent or adversary of Christ. Not that he is the only opponent of Christ. There were many others besides him. The Apostle John observes, that in his days there were many Antichrists. But yet this is called the Antichrist, as though there were none but he, because he was so eminently, and above all others. So this contrivance of the devil, is called the mystery of iniquity, 2 Thes. 2:7 And we find no enemy of Christ one half so much spoken of in the prophecies of Revelation as this. And the destruction of no enemy is spoken of as so glorious and happy for the church. The craft and subtlety of the devil, above all appears in this work of his, as might be shown, were it not that it would consume too much time.

This is a contrivance of the devil to turn the ministry of the Christian church into a ministry of the devil, and to turn these angels of the churches into fallen angels, and so into devils. And in the tyranny, and superstition, and idolatry, and persecution, which he sets up, he contrives to make an image of ancient Paganism, and more than to restore what was lost in the empire by the overthrow of Paganism in the time of Constantine. So that by these means the bead of the beast, which was wounded unto death in Constantine, has his deadly wound healed in Antichrist, Rev. 13:3. And the dragon, that formerly reigned in the heathen Roman empire, being cast out thence, after the beast with seven heads and ten horns rises up out of the sea, gives him his power, and seat, and great authority. And all the world wonders after the beast.

I am far from pretending to determine the time when the reign of Antichrist began, which is a point that has been so much controverted among divines and expositors. It is certain that the 1260 days, or years, which are so often in Scripture mentioned as the time of the continuance of Antichrist’s reign, did not commence before the year of Christ 479, because if they did, they would have ended, and Antichrist would have fallen before now. But I shall not pretend to determine precisely how long it was after this that that period began. The rise of Antichrist was gradual. The Christian church corrupted itself in many things presently after Constantine’s time, growing more and more superstitious in its worship, by degrees bringing in many ceremonies into the worship of God, until at length they brought in the worship of saints, and set up images in their churches, and the clergy in general, and especially the bishop of Rome, assumed more and more authority to himself. In the primitive times he was only a minister of a congregation, then a standing moderator of a presbytery, then a diocesan bishop, then a metropolitan, which is equivalent to an archbishop. Then he was a patriarch. Then afterwards he claimed the power of universal bishop over the whole Christian church through the world, wherein he was opposed for a while, but afterwards was confirmed in it by the civil power of the Emperor in the year 606. After that he claimed the power of a temporal prince, and so was wont to carry two swords, to signify that both the temporal and spiritual sword was his, and claimed more and more authority, until at length he, as Christ’s vicegerent on earth, claimed the very same power that Christ would have, if he was present on earth, and reigned on his throne, or the same power that belongs to God, and used to be called God on earth, and used to be submitted to by all the princes of Christendom. He claimed power to crown princes, and to degrade them at his pleasure. And this power was owned. And it came to that, that kings and emperors used to kiss his feet. The emperors were wont to receive their crowns at his hands, and princes were wont to dread the displeasure of the Pope, as they would dread a thunderbolt from heaven. For if the Pope was pleased to excommunicate a prince, all his subjects were at once freed from their allegiance to him, yea, and obliged not to own him any more, on pain of excommunication. And not only so, but any man might kill him wherever he found him. And further, the Pope was believed to have power to damn men at pleasure. For whoever died under his excommunication, was looked upon as certainly damned. And several emperors were actually deposed and ejected, and died miserably by his means. And if the people of any state or kingdom did not please him, he had power to lay that state or kingdom under an interdict, which was a sentence pronounced by the Pope against that state or kingdom, whereby all sacred administrations among them could have no validity. There could be no valid baptism, or sacraments, or prayers, or preaching, or pardons, until that interdict was taken off, so that that people remained, in their apprehension, in a miserable, damnable state, and therefore dreaded it as they would a storm of fire and brimstone from heaven. And in order to execute his wrath on a prince or people with whom the Pope was displeased, other princes must also be put to a great deal of trouble and expense.

And as the Pope and his clergy robbed the people of their ecclesiastical and civil liberties and privileges, so they also robbed them of their estates, and drained all Christendom of their money, and engrossed the most of their riches into their own coffers by their vast revenues, besides pay for pardons and indulgences, baptisms and extreme unctions, deliverance out of purgatory, and an hundred other things. — See how well this agrees with the prophecies, 2 Thes. 2:3, 4; Dan. 7:20, 21; Rev. 13:6, 7, and chap. 17:3, 4.

During this time also superstition and ignorance more and more prevailed. The Holy Scriptures by degrees were taken out of the hands of the laity, the better to promote the unscriptural and wicked designs of the Pope and the clergy. And instead of promoting knowledge among the people, they industriously promoted ignorance. It was a received maxim among them, that ignorance is the mother of devotion. And so great was the darkness of those times, that learning was almost extinct in the world. The very priests themselves, most of them, were barbarously ignorant as to any commendable learning, or any other knowledge, than their hellish craft in oppressing and tyrannizing over the souls of the people. The superstition and wickedness of the church of Rome, kept growing worse and worse until the very time of the Reformation. And the whole Christian world were led away into this great defection, excepting the remains of the Christian church in the Eastern empire that had not been utterly overthrown by the Turks, as the Greek church, and some others, which were also sunk into great darkness and gross superstition, excepting also those few that were the people of God, who are represented by the woman in the wilderness, and God’s two witnesses, of which more hereafter.

This is one of those two great kingdoms which the devil in this period erected in opposition to the kingdom of Christ, and was the greatest and chief. I come now,

(2.) To speak of the other, the second, which is in many respects like unto it, viz. his Mahometan kingdom, which is another great kingdom of mighty power and vast extent, set up by Satan against the kingdom of Christ. He set this up in the Eastern empire, as he did that of Antichrist in the Western.

Mahomet was born in the year of Christ, 570, in Arabia. When he was about forty years of age, he began to give forth that he was the great prophet of God, and began to teach his new invented religion, of which he was to be worshipped as the head next under God. He published his Alcoran, which he pretended he received from the angel Gabriel. And being a subtle, crafty man, and possessed of considerable wealth, and living among a people who were very ignorant, and greatly divided in their opinions of religious matters, by subtlety, and fair promises of a sensual paradise, he gained a number to be his followers, and set up for their prince, and propagated his religion by the sword, and made it meritorious of paradise to fight for him. By which means his party grew, and went on fighting until they conquered and brought over the neighboring countries. And so his party gradually grew until they overran a great part of the world. First, the Saracens, who were some of his followers, and were a people of the country of Arabia, where Mahomet lived, about the year 700, began dreadfully to waste the Roman empire. They overran a great many countries belonging to the empire, and continued their conquests for a long time. These are supposed to be meant by the “locusts” that we read of in Revelation.

And then after this the Turks, who were originally another people, different from the Saracens, but were followers of Mahomet, conquered all the Eastern empire. They began their empire about the year of Christ 1296, and began to invade Europe 1300, and took Constantinople, and so became masters of all the Eastern empire in the year 1453, which is near three hundred years ago. And thus all those cities and countries where were those famous churches of old, that we read of in the New Testament, as Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, etc. now all became subject to the Turks. And they took possession of Constantinople, which was named after Constantine the Great, being made by him the head city of the Roman empire, whereas Rome had been until then. These are supposed to be prophesied of by the ‘horsemen’ in the 9th chapter of Revelation, beginning with the l5th verse (Rev. 9:15). And the remains of the Christians that are in those parts of the world, who are mostly of the Greek church, are in miserable slavery under these Turks, and treated with a great deal of barbarity and cruelty, and are become mostly very ignorant and superstitious.

Thus I have shown what great works of Satan were wrought during this space of time in opposition to the kingdom of Christ.

2. I come now to show how the church of Christ was upheld through this dark time. — And here,

(1.) It is to be observed, that towards the former part of this space of time, some of the nations of Christendom held out a long time before they complied with the corruptions and usurpations of the church of Rome. Though all the world wondered after the beast, yet all nations did not fall in at once. Many of the principal corruptions of the church of Rome were brought in with a great deal of struggle and opposition. And particularly, when the Pope gave out, that he was universal bishop, many churches greatly opposed him in it. And it was a long time before they would yield to his exorbitant claims. And so, when the worship of images was first brought into the churches, there were many who greatly opposed it, and long held out against it. And so with respect to other corruptions the church of Rome. Those people that dwelt nearer to the city of Rome complied sooner, but some that were more remote, were a long time before they could be induced to put their necks under the yoke. And particularly ecclesiastical history gives an account, that it was so with great part of the churches in England, and Scotland, and France, who retained the ancient purity of doctrine and worship much longer than many others who were nearer the chief seat of Antichrist.

(2.)In every age of this dark time, there appeared particular persons in all parts of Christendom, who bore a testimony against the corruptions and tyranny of the church of Rome. There is no one age of Antichrist, even in the darkest times of all, but ecclesiastical historians mention great many by name who manifested an abhorrence of the Pope, and his idolatrous worship, and pleaded for the ancient purity of doctrine and worship. God was pleased to maintain an uninterrupted succession of witnesses through the whole time, in Germany, France, Britain, and other countries, as historians demonstrate, and mention them by name, and give an account of the testimony which they held. Many of them were private persons, and many of them ministers, and some magistrates, and persons of great distinction. And there were numbers in every age who were persecuted and put to death for this testimony.

(3.) Besides these particular persons dispersed here and there, there was a certain people, called the Waldenses, who lived separate from all the rest of the world, who kept themselves pure, and constantly bore a testimony against the church of Rome through all this dark time. The place where they dwelt was the Vaudois, or the five valleys of Piedmont, a very mountainous country, between Italy and France. The place where they lived was compassed about with those exceeding high mountains called the Alps, which were almost impassable. The passage over these mountainous desert countries, was so difficult, that the valleys where this people dwelt were almost inaccessible. There this people lived for many ages, as it were, alone, in a state of separation from all the world, having very little to do with any other people. And there they served God in the ancient purity of his worship, and never submitted to the church of Rome. This place in this desert mountainous country, probably was the place especially meant in Revelation 12:6, as the place prepared of God for the woman, that they should feed her there during the reign of Antichrist.

Some of the Popish writers themselves own, that that people never submitted to the church of Rome. One of the Popish writers, speaking of the Waldenses, says, The heresy of the Waldenses is the oldest heresy in the world. It is supposed that this people first betook themselves to this desert secret place among the mountains, to hide themselves from the severity of the heathen persecutions which were before Constantine the Great. And thus the woman fled into the wilderness from the face of the serpent, Rev. 12:6. And so, verse 14, “And 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.” And the people being settled there, their posterity continued there from age to age afterwards, and being, as it were, by natural walls, as well as by God’s grace, separated from the rest of the world, never partook of the overflowing corruption.

These especially were those virgins who were not defiled with the rest of women, or when other women prostituted themselves and were defiled, but they kept themselves pure for Christ alone. They followed the Lamb, their spiritual husband, whithersoever he went. They followed him into this hideous wilderness, Rev. 14:4, 5. — Their doctrine and their worship, as there still remain accounts of them, appear to be the same with the Protestant doctrine and worship. And by the confession of Popish writers, they were a people remarkable for the strictness of their lives, for charity and other Christian virtues. They lived in external poverty in this hideous country, but they chose this rather than to comply with the great corruptions of the rest of the world.

They living in so secret a place, it was a long time before they seem to have been much taken notice of by the Romanists. But at last falling under observation, they went out in mighty armies against them, and fell upon them with insatiable cruelty, barbarously massacring and putting to death men, women, and children, with all imaginable tortures. And so continued persecuting them with but little intermission for several hundred years, by which means many of them were driven out of their old habitations in the valleys of Piedmont, and fled into all parts of Europe, carrying with them their doctrine, to which many were brought over. So their persecutors could not by all their cruelties extirpate the church of God, so fulfilling his word, “that the gates of hell should not prevail a against it.”

(4.) Towards the latter part of this dark time, several noted divines openly appeared to defend the truth, and bear testimony against the corruptions of the church of Rome, and had many followers. The first and principal of these was a certain English divine, whose name was John Wickliff, who appeared about 140 years before the Reformation, and strenuously opposed the Popish religion, and taught the same doctrine that the Reformers afterwards did, and had many followers in England. He was hotly persecuted in his lifetime, yet died in peace. And after he was buried, his bones were dug up by his persecutors, and burnt. His followers remained in considerable numbers in England until the Reformation, and were cruelly persecuted, and multitudes put to death for their religion.

Wickliff had many disciples and followers, not only in England, but in other parts of Europe, whither his books were carried, and particularly in Bohemia, among whom were two eminent divines. The name of one was John Huss. The other’s name was Jerome, a divine belonging to Prague, the chief city of Bohemia. These strenuously opposed the church of Rome, and had many who adhered to them. They were both burnt by the Papists for their doctrine. And their followers in Bohemia were cruelly persecuted, but never extirpated until the Reformation.

Thus having gone through this dark time of the church, which is the second part of the space from Constantine the Great to the destruction of Antichrist, I come now,