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2. The gospel's prevailing as it did against such powerful
3. No other sufficient cause can possibly be assigned of this
the gospel. This effect therefore can have proceeded from no other cause than the power and agency of God: And if the power of God was what 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........Matth. xvi. 18. “Upon this rock will I build church : And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." John xii. 24. 6 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 vers. 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 xvi. 8.
John xvi. 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 i Cor. chap. i. 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, tò 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 nought 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 redemp. tion is carried on from the time of the overthrow of the Heathen Roman empire in the time of Constantine the Great, till the fall of Antichrist, and the destruction of Satans's visie ble 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 lorig series of wonders of divine providence towards the Christian church. The greater part of thë 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 suc.cess 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, till Antichrist is fallen; and Satan's visible kingdom on earth is destroyed.
1st. 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 Satan made in this space of time to the VOL. II.
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 dragón, 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, con cerning which all this confict 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 observes that after the destruction of the Heathen Roman empire, Satan infested the church with heresies. Though there had 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 fall 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, till 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 food, which threatened to overflow all, and entirely to carry away the church, insomuch 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 per secution against the true church of Christ ; so that this here: sy 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's principal antagonist, who wrote in defence of the orthodox faith, was St. 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