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by Celsus, the epicurean, namely : “ That the mother of “ Jesus, being great with child, was put away by the carpen
ter, who had espoused her, he having convicted her of
adultery with a soldier named Pantherus." (See Part III. Chap. IV. v. 19.)
Long experience and observation, however, have afforded sufficient evidence, that the most eminently virtuous and useful characters on earth, have been the most scandalized and traduced by the tongue of common fame ; insomuch that men of prudence and candour, in many cases, are able to see through the deception, and reasonably expect the best where the worst is said.
Probably no work of God, in any dispensation, has been more misrepresented than the present, nor any people more wrongly reported; yet it is ro unpleasing reflection to us, that from the beginning of the work to the present day, we have never published any reply to any of those reports, (how, ever evil and false we knew them to be,) either in defence of our character, or the cause we have espoused; but have peaceably passed on without regarding them any more than if they had not been ; and that for the following reasons.
First: Because the testimony which we gladly received, pointed out to us a very strait and narrow way of self-denial, and mortification to all that natural men call good and great; and opened to us that hidden treasure which we esteemed so far beyond any thing we possessed, or wished to possess on earth, that we were cheerfully willing to sacrifice our character and our all, to obtain it: so that the world could take nothing from us that we were unwilling to part with for Christ's sake and the gospel's.
Therefore, whatever evil was reported, being conscious of our innocence, it only served to increase our consolation in Christ, and afforded an increasing evidence to the candid and judicious, that we werc following the despised footsteps of
him who said, Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.
Secondly: With regard to the defence of the cause in which we were engaged : We had long been weary of those human creeds and confessions, and subtie arguments, written in defence of divided and sub-divided parties, which, for many ages, had perplexed the human race, and in the end, left their abettors (and us with the rest) totally destitute of the real power of salvation from all sin.
When, therefore, we were called by the gospel, and received that anointing power which bringeth salvation, we were led and influenced by the spirit of the work, (and found it to be a point of wisdom,) first to prove the faith we had received, for ourselves, and to manifest it by our works, as the greatest confirmation, both to ourselves and others, that the work was verily of God, before we could feel justified in giving that full and perfect information which the weight and importance of the subject demands. For, until it was sufficiently proved, that the gospel which we received, was, in its own nature, productive of the works and fruits of righteousness, justice, mercy and peace, and that it was planted by the finger of God, and nourished and supported by his wisdom and power, separate from, and wholly independent of all human laws and creeds of men, we never could with a just confidence and propriety say, Thus hath God wrought.
The Third, and most weighty reason why we have never made any reply to those clamorous reports, and given a public statement of our faith and practice, was, that we could not have done it without acting contrary to the order of God in every dispensation of his grace.. It was the gist of God to Moses, long after the flood, to record the lives and transactions of the Patriarchs; and the character and works of
the servants of God, always remained to be published by their successors, or those who enjoyed the fruits of their labours : for no testament is of force while the testator liveth.
Christ Jesus, while engaged in the work of his ministry, strictly charged his disciples to tell no man that he was the Christ. And many things were said and done, which were known only to his disciples, and kept closely concealed from the vain speculations of the world. He well knew the inveterate malice of his enemies, who were continually watching for something whereby they might condemn him ; and even until the last, they accused and condemned him as a blasphemer, and worthy of death, for the least intimation that he was sent of God, although his works plainly declared it.
It is also evident that the testimony of the apostles was verbal for many years, and nothing was written for the information of those who were unacquainted with the work of Christ, or at a distance from where the first scene was transacted, until the work of that day was fully established: and even then, their writings and sayings were far from being common, but were kept close, and spread no farther than the operation of the spirit of God had prepared the way for them to be received by faith. Therefore it need not seem strange, if the circumstances preceding the public opening of Christ's second appearing, should be similar to those of his first appearing.
The second appearing of Christ, commonly called the MILLENNIUM, or Latter day of glory, has ever been considered as a period of the greatest importance to mankind universally, inasmuch as all the prophecies of the holy scriptures were then to have their certain accomplishment; every threatning of God to be fully executed upon the ungodly and sinners, in the final overthrow of their unjust and oppressive governments, their false and pernicious superstitions, and all their unrighteous works. On the other hand,
all the promises of God to his people, were then to be fulfilled, in their final redemption from all the sorrowful effects of the fall; in building them up in holiness, righteousness and everlasting peace and true felicity; and enriching them with all the fulness of temporal and eternal goodness.
But it never was intended, nor could it be expected, upon any principle of reason or truth, that all those things should be accomplished at once; but according to the usual manner of God's working, they must gradually proceed from small beginnings, and continue to operate, in a progressive manner, from one degree to another, as a small seed pianted in its proper season, springs up, and grows into a trec. The beginning of this great event we have stated, according to the degree and measure of what has already taken place. And although it may appear to some as a day of small things, we are, nevertheless, persuaded beyond a doubt, that the samo who hath begun the good work, will carry it on until the whole be accomplished.
It is reasonable to suppose that mankind, so long imposed upon by false systems, said to be of divine authority, must be very cautious, at this day, of receiving any thing that bears such an appearance. And therefore, through the tenderness and mercy of God, the truth and revelation of Christ is opened answerable to the weak and prejudiced state of the world, for the edification of the candid, and not for their destruction.
And as it is the most special call of God to all who are seeking for eternal life, to free themselves of those pernicious superstitions, and false doctrines of Antichrist, in order to their receiving the everlasting gospel of Christ's kingdom, therefore it is, that so great a part of the following pages is taken up in exposing the works of Antichrist, during his dark and deplorable reign of tavelve hundred and sixty years, in order that souls, who are groaning under bondage, may
discover the cause and be released. And truly, when the whole depth of that antichristian delusion is exposed, that saying will be fully verified : And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
This subject might have been comprised in much less room than now occupies, were it not that mankind have been 50 long deceived and led astray by a false influence, instead of being guided by the light of truth. A particular account of the transactions of Antichrist, during his reign, must be sought for in the history of those, who, sometime after the days of Christ and his apostles, took the dominion in the affairs of the Church, and established a false religion, under the pretence of being their successors. Therefore, in or der fully to expose the dark reign of that power, which has so long triumphed in disguise under the sacred name of Jefus Christ, it appeared necessary to make large extracts, from some of the most noted ecclesiastical writers, that when facts are established by the testimony of these writers, in their own words, they need not be disputed.
In treating on this dark period, we have extracted some of the most interesting facts from Mosileim's Ecclesiastical History, Robinson's Ecclesiastical Researches, and from The Works of LARDNER. And on various occasions, we have used quotations from Newton, Robertson, Edwards, Boston, Sewell, Wesley, and others.* Most of the historical writers whom we have quoted, are well known, and highly esteem. ed; nor have we any knowledge that their veracity was ever called in question by the learned.
The largest extracts are made from the three first mentioned writers, whose works are supported from the best authorities of ancient and modern history. John Lewrere MoShein was a Lutheran priest, and Chancellor of the University of Gottingen, in Germany, the seat of the Refornation. His Ecclesinstical Hiscory was translated from the original Lab by Archibald Maclaine, D. D. The extracts are from the Philadelphia Edition, printed in 1797, in six octavo volumes. Those from Robinson's Ecclesiastical Researches, are from a Europrean Edition, printed at Cambridge in 1702, a very valuable production of one quar: to volume. The writings of Dr. Lardner are held in high estimation by modern histor sus in general; the excracts are from the London Edition of his works, printed in 1788, in
élereg octavo rohumes.