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the son of that father, who was a murderer from the beginning, and leads all his children to the practice of his own favourite sin ; who, in their capacity of legislators, have nothing to render them respectable, but new-invented terrors of torture and bloodshed. The prospect here becomes too shocking to be minutely delineated : every human creature, that has any feeling, must turn away from it with horror; and resolve, that if such be the world now left to us, it must surely be our duty and interest, to pray to God, that he would put an end to it: or, in the more devout and affecting language of our Liturgy, that he would shortly accomplish the number of his elect, and hasten his kingdom.
As the bee can extract honey from a poisonous flower, so may the Christian, when properly informed, derive comfort from every subject. Every event, whatsoever it' may be in itself, is valuable to us, if the consideration of it tends to the confirming and strengthening of our faith: and how can it be otherwise, when we see with our eyes, that God is faithful and true, and that the sure word of his prophecy is daily fulfilling in the world? This brings the truth of the Gospel home to our bosoms, and makes us living witnesses of it. When the wickedness of the Jews brought down the vengeance of heaven upon Jerusalem, the time was fearful and fatal to that people ; while Christians considered the whole as an accomplishment of what their Master had foretold, and an earnest of their own approaching redemption. The more wicked this world becomes, the nearer is its end : corruption is never very remote from dissolution. This great subject will have different effects on the minds of different persons; to some of terror, from the avenging hand of God, whom in the moment of licentious
ness they have insulted and defied : to others, of comfort and confidence, from the fulfilling of the Divine promises. The same waters of the flood, which drowned the world, supported that ark which preserved the family of Noah. When the world shall be in its last agonies of sin and perturbation, and men's hearts are failing them for fcar; the servants of Christ are commanded to lift up their heads (which have been bowed down under reproaches and persecutions) and to look up, for their redemption draweth nigh. That the time is actually come, for the Christians of this generation to lift up their heads, it would be rash to affirm, and perhaps weak to believe : many strange things may intervene : yet thus far, I think, our persuasion may extend with reason : that all the servants of God, who now are, or shortly will be, leaving this present world, may go to rest, under an assurance that their separation from the body will be short: a consideration, which to our weak minds, subject to strong impressions from the ideas of time and place, may have its use in lessening the fear of death; and it is therefore worth encouraging.
As you have seen, from the prediction of the apostle, that the revelation of the man of sin was an event, to happen before the end of the world; how thankful ought we to be, that it did not happen here : for, that the mystery of iniquity hath long been at work in this nation, cannot be denied : and it would have prevailed, but for that power which letteth, the restraining power of government, which it hath pleased God, of his unmerited goodness still to preserve amongst us. I fear there is too much truth in the assertion, that the first seeds of all this mischief were sown in Britain. Here it was, that reason, now deified in France, was first invested with the right of
making its own religion ; which, in other words, is a right of being its own God: and modern atheists have only carried that right to the point, to which it has always been tending, under the management of our deists. The lights and sanctions of religion can be only from God: if from man, then he is God to himself. This doctrine, in fairer words, was first started amongst us: and so was that other, that there is no power of government but from the power of the people. Here did that doctrine arise in the last century; and the murder of a king, with a sacrilegious plundering of the church, and a miserable oppression of the people, soon followed. But, through the mercy of God, we were not given up: our mistakes did not terminate in atheism : and may the same Divine grace still dispose us to take proper warning, and make a wise use of the example now before our eyes; that we may every day be farther from the danger, and safer from the infection, of apostacy: that the church, which God hath promised to preserve to the end of the world, may be preserved here; and that the little faith he shall find at his coming, may be found with us. AMEN.
WHEN THE SON OF MAN COMETH, SHALL HE FIND
FAITH ON THE EARTH? LUKE XVIII. 8.
WHEN the Son of Man dwelt among us, faith was the first thing he looked for in those with whom he conversed: and if it was not found, his mission, to such persons, was without effect. At his second coming, he will be looking for the same; but the text gives us little hope that he will find it. The words do not positively assert, that no faith shall then be left, but that the finding of it shall be questionable: it shall be so far lost, that the instances in which it is found shall be few and rare. With this the words of St. Paul agree; who teaches us, that in the last days perilous times shall come, 2 Tim. iii. 1; that the truth should be resisted by men, as Moses was resisted by the perverse unbelieving magicians of Egypt, Jannes and Jambres, and that they should become, as those men were, reprobate concerning the faith, ver. 8. This character of the last age of the world falls in with another equally remarkable; I mean the appearance of the man of sin : though it may well be suspected, that both these characters of the time are reducible to one: for the man of sin arises out of the Christian
faith, and raises himself upon the ruins of it; as the worm that destroys the fruit, is bred within it. That the depravity foretold in the Scripture, is the depravity of Christians, there can be no doubt ; the prediction concerning it being thus wordedthe spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, &c. 1 Tim. iy. 1. The corruption, therefore, foretold, is a departure from the faith ; and in that we may expect to see something much worse than the corruption of uninformed savage nature. An apostate from truth adds perfidy to his wickedness: he is in darkness, because he has put out the light: and can offend with that blasphemy against heaven, which is not in the power of an ignorant unbeliever,
It is not my design, however, to display his wickedness, but rather to shew bow truly the text has pointed out the root and cause of it in a single word ; in order to which it must first be shewed what Faith is, and what place it holds in the Christian religion. Of this it is so considerable a part, and so essential to all the rest, that it is frequently put for the whole: for what does the Apostle mean by departing from the faith, but departing from Christianity ? and where he speaks of the word of faith, what does he intend, but the preaching of the whole Gospel ? and the Gospel is called the word of faith, because faith only can receive what it delivers. The invisible things of God and of a spiritual world must be told to us; for.we can neither see them nor know them: and faith receives the testimony on which they are revealed. Things invisible can have no evidence but that of the faith which believes them : and if the witness of them be from God, then is God the object of our faith: and if we live and act in consequence of that faith, then our works are