First Published by the Shakers in 1823, then this Second Edition in 1848
1. THE declension of the Primitive Church, and the rise of Antichrist have been briefly alluded to in the preceding pages. But our limits will not permit us to enter fully into the discussion of these subjects. We shall, however, endeavor to give a brief illustration to the understanding of the reader.
2. After Jesus Christ had finished his personal work on earth, he ascended to his Father, and according to his promise, he sent the comforter, the Holy Spirit of Truth, to lead and guide his followers. And through the agency of this Spirit, which operated in the office of a Mother, as the bearing, nursing and comforting Spirit; and through the ministry of the apostles, the primitive church was brought forth, built up and established.
3. Here was manifested that degree of purity, love, disinterested benevolence and peace never before known on earth; and here the members with one accord, forsook the lust of the flesh and all its carnal ties and relations, "the lust of the eye and the pride of life," and united into one body, where the rich and the poor fared alike, and love was the bond of their union. All who believed were together and had all things common. Neither was there any among them that lacked for as many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold them; and distribution was made to every man according as he had need.
4. They took no part in the civil government, bore no arms of war, renounced all worldly ambition, were all united in faith, lived as brethren and sisters in Christ, had neither masters nor slaves. This was a practical example of union and love, which the world had never before witnessed. It was, therefore, the fulfilment of that precept of the Savior; "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." For it was evident to all that such a work could never be effected by all the power of nature. And as they lived in peace with all, they found the Savior's promise verified: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." The peace which they possessed, the world never could give.
5. These faithful souls were a kind of first fruits of the creatures of God, in their true order. Hence the sacred order of the Church was thereby represented; and this was a pattern of the real work of God to be revealed in the dispensation of Christ's second appearing, which was then future, and which was to be made manifest when the true Church, which is his body, shall be brought to perfection, and his everlasting Kingdom of peace shall be established.
6. Let all who sincerely desire to find the true Church of Christ, seriously consider this pattern: for this is the only true character of the living body of Christ. Therefore, where this character does not exist, there can be no true Church of Christ. Though many admit that there has been a great falling away from the uprightness of the primitive Church; yet they suppose that a true Church has still existed on earth, through all ages, since the days of the apostles, descending in a regular line of succession from the apostolic Church; particularly in those associations which are styled orthodox. Were this really so, the Divine Spirit of a pure and holy God must have chosen a very contaminated medium to convey the pure waters of life from His pure and holy fountain, which he never will do.
7. But all who trust in such a conveyance, will most certainly find that all those churches, so called, where the above described pattern and character are not found, ever have and ever will prove like those broken cisterns that cannot contain the pure waters of life. Such churches are not the work of the Divine Spirit; but are of human invention, formed by those who have forsaken the true God, the fountain of living waters, and have hewed out cisterns according to their own natural wisdom, and contain nothing better than corrupt waters of Antichrist. All such will be recorded in the earthly fallen nature, and not in the heavenly order, according to the word of the Lord by the prophet Jeremiah.
8. Those who suppose that God has always had a true church on earth, ever since the first appearing of Christ, and who expect to find the order and power of the primitive church solely by the revelation given in that day, will, in the event, most certainly be disappointed. It appears evident from the predictions of Jesus Christ and his apostles, that they foresaw a time coming when the order and power of the church would be lost from off the face of the earth; and therefore could not be known or found by any people whatever. Jesus testified to his disciples, saying, "The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many will come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them."
9. These testimonies of the Lord Jesus evidently alluded to the time of Antichrist's dominion; and if Christ had any true church on earth, at that time he must certainly have been in it; because his church is his body in which he dwells, and of which he is the head and life. Those therefore, who are the real members of that body, can say in truth, "Christ is our life." Hence they can say truly, Lo, here is Christ! and such might be followed with the greatest propriety. "Be ye followers of me, even as I am of Christ;" saith the apostle. But if there ever was a time on earth when none could say in truth, "Lo, here is Christ;" and consequently none could depend upon such a testimony; then it is certain that Christ had not, at that time, any true church on earth. Again: St. Paul saith, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed." This is a clear proof that the apostle foresaw that the church would fall away, and that Antichrist would have his reign, before the day of Christ's second coming.
10. It has been generally admitted that there was a falling away, and that Antichrist has had his reign; but that Christ had no true church on earth during that period, will hardly be acknowledged by anyone of the churches of Antichrist; because such an acknowledgment would implicitly condemn all these churches as counterfeits. But the tree is known by its fruits." And certain it is, that if the predictions of Christ, on this subject have ever been fulfilled, then there was a time when he had no true church on earth. This period may easily he ascertained by an impartial examination of ecclesiastical history, which developed ages of controversy and strife, fraud and violence, tyranny and persecution, war and bloodshed, licentiousness and debauchery, and every species of crime, committed under the authority and by the sanction of these professedly Christian churches, and which sufficiently prove that Christ was not there.
11. The falling away of the primitive Church, and the prevailing influence and ascendancy of Antichrist, was progressive and gradual. Ages passed away before the sanctuary was completely defiled, and the Holy City effectually trodden under foot by the fallen nature of man, in the Gentiles, and the real reign of Antichrist fully established. The spirit of Antichrist early began to operate among the professors of Christianity, especially in those "deceitful workers" who corrupted the doctrines of the gospel, with a view to accommodate them to the carnal principles of nature, and to the ambition, pride and popularity of the world.
12. It appears that the principal labor of these "deceitful workers," was to explain away the practical part of the precepts and examples of Christ, by teaching that they could not become like Christ, in this world; but they might be his followers, and be justified in following the rudiments of the world. They also perverted the doctrines of Christ and his apostles, by veiling them in mysteries unintelligible to common capacities. By thus placing the gospel in mystery, they could accommodate it to their carnal views, and render it popular with the learned world, and secure their interest and support in it.
13. Thus Antichrist, which implies a spirit against Christ, under the Christian name and profession, first began his work in the primitive Church, even in the days of the apostles, as is evident by their zealous labors and warnings against his works. " For many walk, of whom I have often told you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ." "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived!" Such deceivers are "ministers of Satan, assuming to be ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
14. Yet these deceivers of the kingdom of Antichrist, teach that the unrighteous can inherit the kingdom of God, through the merits of Christ. And this is the doctrine which has been taught ever since the Christian profession has become popular in the world; and this doctrine has been handed down through all the branches of those popular establishments called orthodox churches, to this day.
15. They generally and confidently teach that no soul can, by any grace or power which they could receive by the gospel, ever be able to live free from sin in this life; but that they can be saved by their faith and profession, through the righteousness and atonement of Jesus Christ. This is the complete doctrine of Antichrist; and to all such, however high their profession, the testimony of Christ is, and ever will be, "Depart from me ye workers of iniquity, for I know you not."
16. It is evident from the testimony of St. John, that the spirit of Antichrist had begun to work, and had gained much power in his day. "As ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even so now there are many Antichrists." Diotrephes, one of the ministers of Antichrist, had gained such ascendancy, that he would not receive the brethren, who, in the name of God, went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. This lover of preeminence not only refused to receive the brethren, but forbid them that would, and cast them out of the Church. And it appears that nothing except the personal presence of St. John could control his power. Those brethren would take nothing of the Gentiles to render the religion of Christ popular in the eyes of the world, and accommodate it to worldly principles. This Antichrist could not endure: for the whole labor and design of Antichrist was popularity and preeminence.
17. According to the records of ecclesiastical history, after the decease of the apostles and those faithful ministers who were their immediate successors, and who maintained in a good degree, amid scenes of opposition and persecution, the primitive purity of those principles by which Christianity was first planted, little room remained for the pure gospel. But afterwards in consequence of a relaxation of these first principles by the members, the Church began to decline towards the world.
18. Many of the Gentiles embraced Christianity by profession. Among these were men eminent for natural wisdom, literary talents, and even learned philosophers. These obtained great influence in the church, and thereby brought in various mysteries pertaining to the religions of the Gentile nations, particularly those in high repute for their wisdom and learning. These were mysteriously blended with the doctrines of Christ and the apostles.
19. From this source originated the doctrine of the Trinity, or three persons in one God, all in the masculine gender. Also the doctrine of the Eucharist, or the mysterious ceremony of the bread and wine, called one of the sacraments, about which there has been much theological contention and scenes of bloodshed among its various advocates. But these mysterious names are not to be found in the scriptures; nor have we any divine authority for the doctrines they maintain. That usually called The Lord's Supper, was given simply as a sign or symbol of the sufferings of Christ, then near at hand, and as a figure to teach his disciples the importance of becoming one with him, and with each other, in love and union, in things temporal and spiritual.
20. From the same source also, the then fallen church received the name of Catholic or Universal Church, and her doors were opened to all ranks, classes and orders of men, upon their professions of Christianity, with no essential reformation in the manner of their lives, except in outward forms and ceremonies, and the acknowledgement of creeds and religious confessions of human invention. And this has been the general practice in all the churches that have originated from and maintained the fundamental principles of this self-exalted and self-denominated Catholic Church.
21. From Jews and Gentiles they adopted high sounding titles and splendid equipments to dignify their ecclesiastical leaders, that they might stand on an equality with the magistrates and secular rulers of the nations. Even the name of clergy and clergymen were derived from the same source, and is wholly unscriptural. From the same source they also adopted a multitude of splendid rites and pompous ceremonies, designed and (as they naturally supposed) calculated to excite the veneration and attract the homage of the ignorant and superstitious multitude, who were readily deceived and attracted by delusive appearances.
22. Thus the way was progressively prepared for the profession of Christianity to be blended with the spirit and principles of the world. The object of Antichrist was then effected, which was to unite Church and State, and combine the civil, military, and ecclesiastical powers together; and finally to establish their grand confederacy under one universal, ecclesiastical hierarchy.
23. During the first two centuries we have no account that any professor of the Christian name ever held an office in the civil government; nor was the incongruous title of a Christian soldier known during that period. But during the third century, the learned Tertullian, in his Apology for the Christians, could tell the Emperor that "there were Christians in the Senate, in the camp and in the armies." In short, it evidently appears that at this last period, there could be Christian rulers, Christian officers and soldiers to bear the arms of war and shed human blood, and Christians to subserve all the purposes of worldly government.
24. And this antichristian principle has been handed down among the great mass of Christian professors to this day. What then could hinder the church and the world from being united in one spirit? And what could prevent all the corrupt passions of nature, lust, pride, ambition, and the most heaven daring impiety and cruel tyranny from prevailing under the Christian profession, and in the very bosom of this corrupt church?
25. These corruptions, we learn from the most authentic history, continued to increase from this time forth, and paved the way for that cruel and bloody tyrant Constantine, under a Christian profession, to fight his way to the imperial throne, through scenes of blood and carnage, shocking to humanity, and then to be acknowledged, with all his cruelty, the head of the Christian Church, so called. Then agreeable to the designs of Antichrist, he set about remodeling the government of the church, to correspond with the secular government of the empire. And this order has been handed down and maintained by nearly all the great branches of the Christian world, so called, both Catholics and Protestants.
26. It is evident that after the above mentioned establishment, and the corresponding creeds and systems of faith, adopted by the self-styled orthodox councils, very little of the pure principles of the gospel had an abiding place on earth; though there were for a time, some honest souls in the great body of the church, who labored hard to support a good degree of the primitive principles in the church at large. But Antichrist soon began to reject such intermeddlers from his dominions; and he soon overcame them, so that they were either compelled to submit to the popular religion, or be driven out as heretics and troublers of the will and arbitrary power of this hierarchy, falsely styled the Church of Christ.
27. This was the origin of those scattered denominations which have been handed down through succeeding ages, by ecclesiastical writers as heretics, and their names and characters treated with infamy. After this motley combination of Heathen, Jewish, and Christian doctrines and principles, was established in the Catholic Church, and those called heretics driven out. The real reign and dominion of Antichrist then commenced.
- End of Part V, Chpater 1 -
1. GREAT pains have been taken, and much labor bestowed by learned expositors and ecclesiastical writers, to fix the period of the reign of Antichrist, and to find the time of its commencement: and many periods have been assigned to that event. But this, to say the least, shows the uncertainty of their calculations. This difficulty arises from the various periods in the declension of the church, that are noted in history, in which Antichrist gained an increasing ascendancy. But it ought to be understood that these were particular eras in the progress of his victorious career, to the ultimate supremacy of his power, and the establishment of his reign.
2. There are also periods marked in the Old Testament which various writers, with some appearance of propriety, have considered as the commencement of certain prophetic events, which in the view of others, leaves the whole uncertain. Yet one thing is certain, that is, there can be but one true period from which to commence the calculation of any prophetic event; all other calculations, though never so plausible, may be nullified by others equally plausible; but the true period, when found, cannot be disannulled.
3. Certain it is, that neither the most learned nor the most wise among mortals, that ever existed under the veil of antichristian darkness, never did and never can, fully comprehend the mysteries and times which Divine Wisdom has veiled in typical figures and prophetic numbers. For the nature of these events being concealed from the view of man, those who have attempted to make the calculation, were unable to discern "those times and seasons which God put in his own power:" and hence they have always failed in their attempts. Even the prophet Daniel himself was unable to comprehend the nature and event of those things which were represented to him in the vision. This appears evident from his own testimony.
4. "And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, Oh my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand. But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days."
5. Thus it appears that these things were "closed up and sealed till the time of the end." It was therefore impossible that the predictions relating to these events, should be understood, as to their nature and substance, or the period of their accomplishment, till the time of God's appointment; and even then, they could be known only by the revelation of God. When the seals were taken off, and the book of Divine Revelation was opened, then these predictions which were delivered to the prophet Daniel, and afterwards renewed by Jesus Christ, and again confirmed by the angel to John, could be clearly seen and understood, but not before. And it is but reasonable to suppose that this revelation would first be made to those who were in the real work of God, and whose minds were enlightened by the Divine manifestations which succeeded these events. These things having now been revealed by the light of Divine Truth, and the events clearly seen and understood, they may be pointed out and illustrated, agreeable to ancient predictions, and confirmed by the events recorded in history.
6. Though the spirit of Antichrist began to manifest itself in the apostles' days, as appears evident from their writings; yet it was many ages before it gained so much ascendancy as to exclude the true and faithful witnesses of God and followers of Christ from the temple. When this was effectually done, then the disciples of Antichrist, with great zeal, set about modeling the precepts and doctrines of Jesus Christ and his apostles to suit their own carnal views. And as the practical doctrines of the cross of self-denial were the most obnoxious to the spirit of Antichrist, the first object was to pervert these doctrines in such a manner as to render the cross of Christ ineffectual.
7. This was done by substituting the form of a wooden cross in the place of practical self-denial, and making the show of religion supply the place of the reality. Hence when the Emperor Constantine assumed the Christian name, he formed such a cross for his standard, under which he prosecuted his bloody wars, and fought his way to the throne. Similar devices were formed to supplant everything that bore the mark of Christian purity and simplicity, till the views of Antichrist were fully accomplished, and the sanctuary itself, with everything belonging to it, was completely trodden under foot.
8. By recurring to ecclesiastical history, we find the year 457 marked as the period in which the real reign of Antichrist commenced. For in the year 451, the emperor Marcianus yielded to the demand of Leo, bishop of Rome, and called a general ecclesiastical council, which a former emperor had refused. In this council the decrees of a former general council were abrogated, and an epistle of Leo was adopted as a rule of faith, which (says Mosheim) is at this time, almost generally received, and was then inculcated upon those called Christians, but who, in reality, were the subjects of Antichrist. This epistle taught, as a rule of faith, that "In Christ, two distinct natures were united in one person, and that without any change, mixture or confusion."
9. "Many of the ecclesiastical doctors opposed this doctrine; but the Roman pontiff, far superior to them all, in wealth and power, daily added new degrees of influence to the Roman See, rendered it everywhere respected, and thus imperceptibly established its supremacy." Here we find the origin of this antichristian doctrine of two distinct natures in Christ, so generally maintained by the reputed orthodox professors of Christianity, not from Christ, but from Leo, the first sovereign prince of Antichrist.
10. Historians assert that in the year 456, the Roman empire was overrun by the Barbarians. It appears, however, that this event was no obstacle to the rising dominion of the Roman pontiff; but rather contributed to its advancement. "For when the barbarian kings, who had invaded the empire, perceived the subjection of the multitude to the bishops, and the dependence of the bishops upon the Roman pontiff, they resolved to reconcile this sovereign ruler to their interests, by loading him with benefits and honors of various kinds." By this means they designed to strengthen their own powers and influence.
11. To this we may add that in the year 457, the emperor Marcianus died. Hence it must appear evident that there remained no power in the empire, that could rise in the public estimation to an equal degree of dignity and power with the artful Roman pontiff. But it took several years to complete this professed system of faith; the time may be dated about 460. For it will readily be perceived that his ecclesiastical power and influence was almost unlimited. And the barbarian kings whose power and dominion had risen up by the conquest of the empire, were in process of time, brought under the power of the papal authority, and acknowledged its supremacy.
12. Thus the reign of Antichrist commenced in the supremacy of the papal power. For it is generally agreed and cannot be disputed that his real reign began at that period. And this is indeed the only period which, upon critical examination, will bear the test of its beginning and end; and which can be proved by a consistent calculation of the prophetic times noticed in the scriptures. All other calculations are liable to be disputed; but the truth will stand, and the better it is understood, the more clearly will the evidence of it appear.
13. From this period the papal power was so far established, that it continued to grow and increase from one degree to another, until it arrived at unlimited supremacy. But it appears that the bishop of Rome, did not at that time, nor till many years afterwards, receive the title of Universal Bishop, for the bishop of Constantinople long disputed this title with him; and at times his power received a temporary check, and was, in some degree, controlled by the emperors.
14. But in the end, all these adverse events served only to elevate the dignity and confirm and establish the power of the Roman pontiff. They were indeed but the natural struggles between the civil and ecclesiastical powers, and between the ministers of Antichrist who, Diotrephes-like, were struggling for the preeminence.
15. But the popes finally gained the victory in every struggle; of course their power gradually gained the ascendancy, until they finally rose to the full supremacy, both in civil and ecclesiastical power, higher than any power on earth. The pope was acknowledged as universal bishop by the highest civil powers on earth, who yielded obedience to him in that capacity. Hence his power and influence was gradually increased, till at length he also became a temporal sovereign, and ruled both church and state with unlimited sway.
16. From this period, "The Man of Sin" was established under the profession of Christianity, and sat in the temple of God, showing that he was the god of mankind, yea, of those who had been called by the gospel of Christ, and united as members of his Church, to be the temple of the living and true God. Thus the temple of Christianity on earth became defiled; therefore God in Christ forsook it, and cast off this polluted temple. Then was "the abomination of desolation set up, which stood where it ought not," for the space of 1260 years. This was foretold by Jesus Christ. Here he gave a special caution: "Let him that readeth understand."
17. Some have supposed that this alluded to the destruction of the Jewish temple, and to the desolation of their state by the Romans. But whoever justly considers the rebellious wickedness of that nation, and their sacrilegious persecution of Jesus Christ and his true followers, must at once see that their judgment was just upon them, and that their desolation, instead of standing where it ought not, did, in strict justice, stand where the desolation of such co-workers necessarily must stand.
18. But if it was, in this manner to be literally fulfilled, why was this caution given, "Let him that readeth understand?" which evidently shows that it would be something that would be liable to be misunderstood when the events should take place, which proved indeed to be the case. For when the abomination of Antichrist was set up in the church, very few understood it; and those few who did understand, and who testified against these abominations, were obliged to flee from this corrupt city and temple, to the mountains, and into the wilderness, as did those Jews who understood the time of the desolation of Judea and the destruction of the temple. As stated by Josephus.
19. This was figurative of the events which had been predicted by Christ and the prophets, and were to take place in spiritual Judea, and in the temple or church of Christ's first appearing. When this was effected, and those who understood the Savior's warning had fled, according to his directions, then did the Holy Spirit of Wisdom, which had dwelt in the church, as the bearing and comforting Spirit, flee into the wilderness, and was fed and kept alive, on earth, by the revelation of God, in these scattered witnesses of truth, and dwelt in them as a spirit of revelation, during the whole time of the unlimited reign of Antichrist. For this reason the Dragon was never able wholly to exterminate the testimony of truth from the earth.
20. At the same time, the Divine Spirit of Christ, which was borne by the Eternal Mother Wisdom, which had dwelt in the church, in the masculine order, as the Father, was caught up to God and his throne. Here he set in order his kingdom in the spiritual world, and prepared the way for his Second Coming, in and with the Holy Bride, who is the Daughter and true representative of Eternal Wisdom. This was to take place when the way should be made ready by the war of Michael and his angels, against the Dragon and his angels; when the Dragon should be cast out with his crew, so that they could not dwell on sacred ground and corrupt the heavenly order of the church. Then, and not before, could full salvation be proclaimed by the complete revelation of Christ, in the overcoming power of his blood, which is his divine life.
21. When the falling away was completed, and the supremacy of the papal power was established, the popes professed to stand in the place and stead of Jesus Christ, and to be his viceregents on earth. But if we are to believe the character and works ascribed to them, by ecclesiastical writers, must they not appear in the eyes of candid and judicious people as the most impious and heaven daring blasphemers? The following very brief quotations may suffice.
22. Robinson, speaking of the chief rulers of this universal church, says, "Of the sinners it may be truly affirmed, that they were sinners of size; for it would be difficult to mention a crime which they did not commit." And Mosheim says, "The history of the Roman pontiffs that lived in this [tenth] century, is a history of so many monsters, and not of men, and exhibits a horrible series of the most flagitious, tremendous, and complicated crimes, as all writers unanimously confess."
23. Nor do we find it much better in any age, after the government of this church became supreme in the popes. For ecclesiastical writers inform us that the Antichristian Hierarchy was by them organized and established. This appears truly described in the Revelations as, "That great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth." "Great Babylon, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth."
24. This character is confirmed by the concurring testimony of ecclesiastical writers, both Catholic and Protestant, who have described the whole Catholic Hierarchy as the most abominable theatre of every species of enormity that could be named. Unrestrained lust, the most obscene debauchery, the most perfidious treachery, and the most unbounded luxury, pride and ambition, together with the most horrid tyranny and shocking cruelties, by racks and tortures ever exhibited on earth, were practiced under the cloak of Christianity, and perpetrated with impunity, under the pretended seal of the Court of Heaven. With these crimes were connected the sacrilegious practice of granting indulgences, for money, to commit the most atrocious crimes that the mind of man could conceive.
25. In order to propagate this catholic faith, which proceeded from this corrupt hierarchy, holy wars were declared, and military expeditions undertaken, called crusades. These, of course, excited persecutions, which, in various ways, have spread their influence through the four quarters of the known world. By these means the earth was filled with such scenes of devastation, blood and carnage, that it seemed as though the human race must have been nearly exterminated, had not the grand division called the Reformation, sprung up in the kingdom of Antichrist itself, which weakened its destructive power and checked its prevailing influence.
26. In this catholic hierarchy, creeds and confessions of faith and other articles of belief were progressively matured, formed and established to bind the conscience and fetter the principles of their Christianity; and these were imposed upon the people and made the foundation of their religion. These human creeds and religious confessions of Antichrist have been handed down from one generation to another even to this day. These are the fundamental principles of that religion which constitutes the popular Christianity of the nations; and these, with little variation, have prevailed and still prevail in the great body of what is called the Christian world.
27. For notwithstanding those called Protestants have rejected the supremacy of the Pope; yet they maintain the same established tenets in many points, as their foundation; nor have they rejected the principles of pride, which constitute their vain titles, nor their contention and strife, war and bloodshed, by which their Catholic ancestors were governed. These principles they do not consider inconsistent with their profession of religion; but with them maintain that the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of this world, in all these points, may consistently be united in one.
28. The ministerial orders of their churches have also been handed down through a regular succession, by ordination from the Catholic Church. Therefore they cannot in truth, deny that their churches are the legitimate daughters of the Catholic hierarchy, which they call the church of Antichrist and the kingdom of the Beast.
29. We would now call upon the candid of all professions, to consider well the preceding facts, which cannot, in truth, be disputed; and then ask themselves this question; can the pure stream of Christianity be handed down through such a corrupt medium? Or is it possible that a true church could have existed on earth, through all these dark ages of Antichrist? Will not every rational mind, and every principle of virtue in the soul of man, revolt at the idea?
30. We are far from wishing to stigmatize the character or the faith of any denomination. We doubt not that in all ages, even in the darkest periods of Antichrist's dominion, among both Catholics and Protestants, there were many sincere souls, who have endeavored to walk according to their best light; and such ever were and ever will be noticed by divine mercy and favor.
31. But darkness had covered the earth and gross darkness the people; so that none could comprehend the true light. And this darkness will continue so long as they remain under these false principles. Our design is to show the utter impossibility of having the pure religion of Christ flow through such a corrupt medium, and that it is evident from the records of ecclesiastical history, that the popular Christianity of the world has descended from the catholic hierarchy; and we have endeavored to unveil the mystery of iniquity, and present it in its true colors to the candid and honest mind. It is, however, but justice to remark, that the Catholics have maintained in some respects, more of the outward order of the primitive church than the Protestants. But in whatever forms either of these great parties have appeared, they evidently have supported the leading principles of the fallen world; hence their forms were but "the form of godliness, but denying the power."
32. Let it be clearly understood that the real reign of the papal power commenced about the year 457; and the scenes of tyranny and persecution which followed, for many ages, to enforce obedience to their bloody religion, evidently mark this period as the days of desolation, and the intolerant reign of Antichrist.
33. The closing period of this reign is pointed out in the visions of the prophet Daniel, and by reckoning from the date of the vision, may easily be found. The question was asked, "How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." This vision is dated 553 years before Christ; and allowing 2300 prophetic days to signify so many years, which is generally admitted, we have the time from the date of the prophecy to the cleansing of the sanctuary. Then by taking 553 from 2300 leaves 1747 for the year of the Christian era when the cleansing of the sanctuary was to commence, and when the testimony of truth and all sacred things were no longer to be trodden under foot by the unlimited dominion and persecuting power of Antichrist.
34 Again: The duration of this reign of Antichrist is given in another vision, and which also confirms the preceding calculation. "And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days." These are with propriety called the days of desolation, being the period in which the true church of Christ, or sanctuary of God, was trodden under foot. These days, like the former, signify so many years. Then by adding these 1290 years of desolation to 457, (the year of their commencement under Pope Leo, as before stated,) we have 1747 for the year in which these days of desolation were to end. This agrees exactly with the former calculation, and each one confirms the other.
- End of Part V, Chapter 2 -
1. IN the Revelations of John we find the following testimony: "And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the Angel "stood, saying, Rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles; and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophecy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth." This measuring had reference to the period of time in which that order of primitive Christians existed who worshiped God in the inner court of the temple, or in other words, who rejected the works of the flesh, and worshiped God in the spirit, and separated themselves from the course and friendship of the world.
2. But the question will naturally arise, Who were these two witnesses? and for what purpose were they sent? As our limits will not permit us to enter fully into the discussion of this subject, our remarks must be brief.
3. During the long reign of antichristian darkness, God always had his faithful witnesses, through whom he dispensed a sufficient portion of light to preserve the world from total darkness and ruin. Many such were raised up, from time to time, to whom God revealed himself by his Spirit, who always bore testimony against sin, and in whom was the only divine light then manifested on the earth. They were called the two witnesses, because they were chosen from the two sexes, male and female, and because their testimony pointed to the two great dispensations of the gospel, the first and second appearing of Christ. They were to prophesy 1260 years (in prophetic language called days) "clothed in sackcloth." This denotes the duration of their testimony under a state of darkness and mourning. And this is an evidence that Christ could not have been with them during that period: for his presence would have dispelled all darkness and mourning from them. "Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them?"
4. The testimony of these witnesses commenced at the treading down of the holy city, by the Gentiles, under the dominion of Antichrist. These gentiles having obtained full possession of the outer court of the spiritual temple of God, the way into the temple was shut; of course there could be no entrance into the holy place. While the primitive church stood in its purity, it constituted the living temple of God, where souls could find an entrance into the sanctuary of holiness, and offer their spiritual sacrifices upon the holy altar.
5. But when this church fell away, and came under the dominion of Antichrist, then the spirit of the world in the fallen nature of man, (called by the angel the Gentiles,) under the government of Antichrist, took full possession of everything that belonged to the church, which was called the holy city, and corrupted and trod it under foot. But the spirit of holiness, and the true spiritual order of the church were shut from them, and were henceforth inaccessible to man. Therefore, during the reign of Antichrist, there could be no true church of Christ on earth: for if such a church had then existed, that church would have been the true temple of God, and man could have had access to it.
6. When that measure was fulfilled by which the temple and the altar were measured, according to the direction of the angel, then was fulfilled the vision of Daniel the prophet: "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High." As the saints, or true worshipers of God, were excluded from the temple and the altar during the reign of Antichrist; so these two witnesses prophesied, "clothed in sackcloth," during that period. And as the temple was shut, and the true sanctuary trodden under foot; so there was no light of God on earth except in these witnesses; and wherever they appeared and bore testimony against the corruptions of a false church, and the bloody religion of a degenerate world, they were followed by the cruel arm of persecution, and all the power of this beastly hierarchy was exerted to exterminate them from off the face of the earth. These witnesses continued to rise, from time to time, in the power of their divine testimony, and were as continually opposed and oppressed by the power of persecution, during the whole period of Antichrist's reign.
7. The testimony of these witnesses pointed both to the first and second appearing of Christ. They bore testimony to the precepts and example of Jesus Christ, and to the purity of primitive Christianity; and plainly testified against the doctrines of Antichrist, the religion of the times, and the degeneracy of the world. They also foretold the second coming of Christ, and what it would effect that all false religion, pride and hypocrisy, all tyranny and persecutions, wars and fightings, and all manner of wickedness, and every kind of corruption must then be done away; that there should be one fold, and one shepherd. Although these witnesses of God were raised up in different ages and nations, and bore testimony against the particular corruptions of the age and nation in which they lived; yet the real spirit of their testimony, while they kept in the truth, was uniformly the same, and pointed more or less to the first and second appearing of Christ.
8. The testimony of these witnesses has ever been opposed and rejected by the established ecclesiastical orders, and the popular religions of the day, who have generally stigmatized them with the name of heretics, fanatics and enthusiasts. And by the authority of these self-styled orthodox churches, they have often suffered severely under the iron hand of persecution. Many thousands, yea, millions of them in different ages, have laid down their lives for their testimony, being sacrificed to the vengeance of those who claimed authority to dictate religious principles to all others, and who never failed to bend these principles to their own corrupt standard.
9. These witnesses were the stars of the spiritual heavens; for they were indeed the only spiritual lights that were seen upon earth in this gloomy night of Antichristian darkness. These were the stars that were cast down by the "little horn, which waxed exceeding great, even to the host of heaven, and cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them."
10. The same subject is alluded to in Revelations 6:12. "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood." This earthquake was not in substance, as some suppose, a literal earthquake; but was the effect of the earthly principles and spirit of the world, which had for ages been gathering in the church, during the falling away. But when these principles and elements had become stronger in their attraction to the world, than the heavenly principles that remained, the strife between them caused this great earthquake, which shook the church to pieces and cast it down to the earth, that is, into the nature and spirit of the world.
11. The Sun of Righteousness, which had risen in Christ's first appearing, was covered with a thick veil of darkness, as of sackcloth of hair, by the dark clouds of antichristian doctrines and elements. And the moon, which in this vision signifies the light of nature, (which is merely borrowed light, as the natural moon borrows her light from the sun,) was turned into the bloody principles of wars, revolutions and terrible persecutions. By the operations of these wonderful principles and events, all the governments and earthly powers, which are the mountains of strength in which mankind trust, were overturned. These, with all the religious and moral institutions, represented by islands, in which they seek safety in the tempestuous sea of nature; like a ship that seeks shelter from the storms of the sea, in its islands, were moved out of their places. That is, every power, government and institution through the known world, was overturned by this shaking, caused by these clashing and bloody principles, and by the judgments of God that operated upon the elements of nature.
12. By the same earthquake the stars of heaven, according to the vision, fell to the earth, or to the world; not the natural stars of the firmament; but the religious, moral and spiritual lights, which have risen up and shone for a season, with much splendor, and then have fallen back to the world, one after another, during the whole of this long night of antichristian darkness. This falling of the stars has occasioned many events which, in those times, covered the witnesses of truth with sackcloth, signifying darkness and mourning.
13. All these things were figuratively described in the vision, which well represents the scenes of the dark ages. The period of these mournful scenes began about the time that the Catholic and Mohammedan institutions were fully and contemporaneously established, and ended when the rights of man and the liberty of conscience began to be understood and practiced.
14. When these witnesses had finished their testimony, "the beast made war against them, and overcame them, and killed them." Yet while they stood faithful in the truth, and faithfully delivered their testimony, they could not be overcome. But they were never commissioned of God to build up and establish themselves in the order of a church: for the true order and power of the church was lost from the earth, and they had not light and power given them to restore it. This work could not be effected till Christ made his second appearance, to cleanse the sanctuary, and build up the second gospel temple.
15. The true order and power of the Church of Christ on earth, was first given by divine revelation, and being trodden down and lost by the power of Antichrist, it could never be restored without a second revelation as great, at least, as the former. Therefore, whenever these witnesses undertook to build themselves up into a church, or to restore the true foundation of the primitive church, they always failed in their undertaking, and built more or less upon the principles which Antichrist had already established. By these means they gradually fell into union with the standing order of professors, and they and their natural successors were finally tolerated as Christian Churches. Hence they soon lost the spirit and substance of their testimony, and by degrees became one with the world. Thus the beast (which signifies in substance the fallen nature of man) overcame them, and killed them: for the arm of persecution, which could only destroy their bodies, could never suppress their testimony. But when they united with the world, they lost their testimony, which was the life of their souls, and then they were conquered, and then the world could rejoice over them.
16. Hence the churches which were formed by these people, after the closing of their testimony, were but dead bodies, standing on the same foundation with that great antichristian hierarchy which governed the world under the sacred name of the church of Christ. In this manner many of these stars fell to the earth, one after another, through the whole reign of Antichrist, and thus formed dead bodies. Hence the origin of many of those false churches which still exist under the Christian name; and hence the dominion of Antichrist was still supported, though under various names and denominations.
17. The first effectual blow that weakened the power of Antichrist, and paved the way for the destruction of his tyrannical government, was that memorable division in his kingdom called The Reformation. Though this did not alter the nature of his subjects, nor restore the power of salvation; yet it opened the way for many other divisions, and began to excite a free investigation of their religious principles, and to unfetter the mind of man from the principles of superstition and bigotry. By these means the kingdom of Antichrist has been gradually growing weaker to this day. His power of persecuting by legal authority, has been lost for some time; and the total destruction of his kingdom will finally be effected by the same means.
18. Thus, in the course of Divine Providence, the very materials which have weakened the power of Antichrist, and which will finally destroy his kingdom, have originated in that very kingdom. For although the true witnesses of God have, in all ages, declared in favor of religious liberty, and against the tyrannical usurpation of Antichrist over the consciences of men; yet it remained for that usurpation to be destroyed by these divisions which sprung up among his own subjects. The powerful influence of those liberal principles, which prevailed in the minds of many discerning and liberal men, produced a change in public sentiment, in the very heart of Antichrist's kingdom, which could not be effected by foreign opposition.
19. Many philosophers and men of enlightened understandings appeared in the seventeenth century, and have continued to increase to the present day, who by the powerful influence of their writings, and the concurrent circumstances of the times, contributed to disseminate the principles of civil and religious liberty to a very great extent. These influential writers contended, with great zeal, for the rights of man, and the liberty of conscience, against arbitrary power, and all kinds of tyranny, both civil and ecclesiastical; and through their exertions, liberty of conscience prevailed, even in those countries which had been the most noted for religious intolerance. But these efforts in favor of religious toleration, were always opposed by the great body of ecclesiastics, in all countries; and such have generally been the last to yield to the just and equitable principles of religious liberty.
20. Notwithstanding the great opposition which had long prevailed in the church of Antichrist, against the general principles of liberty; yet much light prevailed on these subjects during the 17th century, and liberal sentiments gained so much ground towards the close of that century, that the catholic hierarchy lost much of its power and influence. In the year 1689, liberty of conscience was proclaimed in England, by WILLIAM, Prince of Orange, who succeeded, in a great measure, in establishing it. This event, and the subject of religious toleration, excited great attention in Europe, and prepared the way for the further increase of these principles. The civil powers of the earth soon began to assume their natural rights, of which they had long been deprived by ecclesiastical supremacy; and, in their turn, they soon began to deprive this great christian hierarchy of the power of persecution, and to establish the rights of conscience. Here it may with propriety be said, that the earth began to open and to swallow up "the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth." And in this manner the earth has continued to swallow up the flood of the dragon to this day.
21. The two witnesses were to prophecy 1260 days, "clothed in sackcloth." This period commenced in the year 457, when Antichrist attained his reigning power, as before stated. By adding 1260 to 457, we have 1717 for the close of that period in which the witnesses were to remain under sackcloth, or in a state of darkness and mourning. About this period, through the operations of Divine Providence, the power of persecution had so far declined, and the rising witnesses, had gained so much light and understanding of the true nature of Christianity, and had received such bright views of the second coming of Christ, and of the nearness of their redemption, that they began to lift up their heads and rejoice, and could no longer be considered as under sackcloth.
22. About this time, the emperor of Russia, called Peter the Great, established a plenary liberty of conscience throughout that extensive empire. And though that nation, to their honor, had been the most free from religious persecution, perhaps, of any nation in the civilized world; yet the established church, previous to this period, had possessed great authority, in ecclesiastical matters, over the minds of the people. But the full and free exercise of religious liberty, and the freedom of civil rights granted by that Prince, opened the way for a great increase of light and understanding among his numerous subjects. This liberal act from a prince who was reputed so wise and powerful, had great influence upon the neighboring nations, in leading them to establish the same liberty, and was probably as great an incentive towards promoting the civil and religious rights of man as any act of any government whatever. The Emperor's final edict, which completed what he had been twenty years in performing, was dated January, 1721.
23. From this period the principles of civil and religious rights and liberty of conscience continued to gain ground, especially in England and other parts of Europe; so that about the year 1735, there remained no power in the civil government to persecute unto death any people for their religious principles. Nor had the priesthood of the established churches any legal authority to hinder these witnesses from the free exercise of their religious faith, or to prevent the declaration of their testimony to the people.
24. Since this time many bright witnesses have continued to rise, and religious revivals have greatly increased. Those who under the reign of persecution, were branded with the odious name of heretics, wild fanatics, and enthusiasts, were now distinguished by the milder appellation of dissenters, puritans, and new-lights. They were ardent in their expectations of the second coming of Christ; and often testified, by the spirit of prophecy, that it was near at hand. These things were evidently preparatory to the great work of the millennium; and the concurrence of events seem to point out this period (1735) for the expiration of the "forty and two months," in which the holy city was trodden down by the Gentiles.
25. It ought to be particularly noticed that the 42 months, and the 1260 days, point to two different events, both commencing at the same time. The 42 months allude to the time in which the holy city was trodden under foot of the Gentiles; the 1260 days allude to the time in which the witnesses prophesied under sackcloth. As these two numbers are differently expressed, and were evidently designed to mark the period of two important events, they ought to be calculated accordingly. In 42 months, or three years and a half, there are 1278 days. These days, in prophetic language, signify so many years. As before stated, the period of treading down the holy city commenced in the year 457. Then by adding 1278 to 457, we have 1735. This appears to be about the closing period of Antichrist's tyrannical reign.
26. Liberty of conscience was a remarkable display of the providence of God in favor of the witnesses of truth. At this time the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood up on their feet. In obedience to the voice of eternal truth which called them, they rose up, in the life and power of their testimony, above the power of antichristian tyranny and all its corrupt principles and doctrines. But from the time that these witnesses began to rise, it was a number of years before they could gain real possession of the holy city. Antichrist and the Gentiles still had possession there.
27. But having entered upon the primitive ground of the church, they advanced forward, and began to strip off the false covering and deceptive colors and glosses with which the pride and sagacity of the Gentiles, and the deceitful spirit of Antichrist had obscured the pure doctrines of the cross, and the beautiful simplicity of the gospel, and thus restored the daily sacrifice. Then was completed the 1290 days, already noticed, which were to be accomplished before the power of the holy people could cease to be scattered. This brings us to the year 1747, as before calculated; and here began the real cleansing of the sanctuary.
28. But the cleansing of the sanctuary, after being so long trodden under foot, and polluted by the abomination of desolation, could not be accomplished at once; it was a work of time. But when it was sufficiently cleansed, then a body was prepared in which the Spirit of Christ could dwell, having had no abiding place on earth during the long reign of Antichrist. Then Christ the Lord descended and took up his abode in his spiritual house; and then was completely fulfilled the words of the prophet: "And the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple. Here the seventh trumpet began to sound, and here began the preaching of the everlasting gospel of Christ's second appearing, which will prove a decisive work to all souls: for this is the last trumpet, in which " the mystery of God will be finished."
29. From about the year 1747, there was a gradual increase of light and understanding in divine things, and of power and victory over the evil nature of sin, among these faithful witnesses, who were now formed into a society, and united together to worship God in the spirit. This increase of divine light and power continued through various changing scenes, till the establishment of the Millennial Church, or second gospel temple, in the year 1792, which then became the habitation of souls in true gospel order. Then expired the days of waiting spoken of by the prophet Daniel: "Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days." These 1335 days added to 457 make 1792. In this year the church was considered as established in its principles of order and government, in which it has continued to increase to the present day.
30. The Millennial Church being established, and having by a number of years experience, proved its principles and order, and gained a sufficient degree of strength and stability, the testimony began to go forth from the true gospel temple about the year 1800. This brings the work of God down to the full revelation of the great and last display of his grace to fallen man, and comprehends the latest period which is described by the prophet Daniel in a connected chain. "Judgment is now given to the saints of the Most High; and the time is come that the saints begin to possess the kingdom." Henceforth to the end, the work will increase until the final separation shall be made between good and evil, and until the full accomplishment of every promise of God ever made to the saints since the foundation of the world.
31. Different ages and dates have been assigned by expositors, for the commencement of these prophetic periods, according to their different degrees of light. But to us it appears that the times are so plainly marked in the prophecies themselves, that a proper examination, we should suppose, would remove all doubts. We find in the prophet Daniel: First, the question was asked, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? The answer was, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.
32. This vision alluded to the future desolation of the spiritual sanctuary, of which the Jewish sanctuary, then suffering under desolation, was a figure. The date of the vision must of necessity be the period to commence the calculation, as no other date is given. Hence, agreeable to the scripture chronology, the time expired, according to the preceding calculation, in 1747. But it is generally admitted that the scripture chronology ought to be a few years later. And no consistent calculation can vary materially from the middle of the eighteenth century.
33. Second. The duration of the real reign of Antichrist, or the period of desolation, is clearly specified to commence at the taking away of the daily sacrifice; and the setting up of the abomination that maketh desolate, is stated to be 1290 prophetic days, which is equal to 1290 years, as we estimate time. It is therefore evident that the real existence of the abomination in the sanctuary alluded to, must terminate as the cleansing of the sanctuary commences. This brings the period of 1290 days to a close at the time of the expiration of the 2300 days alluded to by the prophet.
34. Third. "Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the 1335 days." No other date is given for the commencement of this period than that previously alluded to, that is the setting up of the abomination; for this brings us to the establishment of the everlasting kingdom of the saints. The prophet received the promise that he should stand in his lot at the end of these days, which could not be fulfilled in any other order than in the kingdom of the saints of the Most High. This period, as previously stated, ended about the year 1792. But by no consistent calculation can it be extended beyond the close of the eighteenth century.
35. The latter part of this period was marked by two extraordinary events. First. The power of the long established head of Antichrist's kingdom was completely broken; the Pope was taken prisoner and carried into France. From this time the papal supremacy was taken away, and never has, and never can be recovered. For since that period the papal government has existed by the sufferance of the nations, only in a very limited degree. Second. The order of the church had then been established, and having been proved by several years of experience, to be the commencement of the kingdom of Christ, the gospel of the kingdom began therefrom to go forth to the world for salvation.
36. These two events, viewed in their true light, mark a most extraordinary era in the annals of time; perhaps none have ever affected the destinies of mankind in a greater degree than these will necessarily do in their operations. The first was a work in the order of Providence, which closed the reigning power of Antichrist, and prepared the way for such progressive operations among the nations, as will finally and entirely destroy the power of his kingdom from among men. The second was a work of divine grace, which established the order of the kingdom of the Saints, which will grow and increase, as the kingdom of Antichrist decreases, until it shall extend through the world and will stand forever.
37. In fixing the period of the prophet's vision, we have followed the scripture chronology, supported by the most noted commentators, such as Mede, Sir Isaac Newton, Mosheim, etc. but our limits will not admit of particulars. It appears however to be generally admitted that the true date ought to be carried a few years forward. The difference arises mostly from the uncertainty of the exact year of the birth of Jesus Christ, in connection with the 70 weeks of the prophet Daniel.
38. Of late years, however, several calculations have been made which fix the beginning and end of these prophetic times at a later period. But though such writers may honestly believe their calculations to be correct, yet they have certainly failed to produce sufficient evidence to convince the more enlightened mind. For they have based the commencement of the prophetic period upon events at variance with the nature and time of the prophet's question, which was the only consistent rule given, by which the time could be understood.
39. There is one subject which seems not to be understood by any writer that we have noticed, that is to say: The present dispensation is undoubtedly the operative effects of the voice of the seventh angel, sounding the seventh general trumpet; and it is declared that there should be time no longer" "But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should he finished." For the mystery of God should be fully revealed, and his work of probationary time should be accomplished, respecting the salvation of man. From this it is evident that there are progressive days or distinct degrees in the work declared by the seventh trumpet, which is the seventh age of the world. In each of these days a work must precede, to prepare the way for the real work of the day.
40. In this preparation the Spirit of the Lord has been and will be poured out upon many. And the prophetic spirit causes them to predict that the second coming of Christ, or latter day of glory is at hand, and to set times for its appearance, for the work is always future to those who have not yet received it. From this source arises the attempts which are often made, to set times for the kingdom to come on earth. Because every succeeding manifestation of the work of God is to them new and the beginning, while they know not that the voice of the seventh trumpet has long been sounding, and that the kingdom of the saints has already been set up.
41. Hence the true reason why so many different periods have been calculated for these events, must undoubtedly be owing to the want of spiritual mindedness in the calculators, to enable them to understand spiritual things. They take a natural view of these things, expecting to see them fulfilled in a natural sense. Therefore they find nothing in any period that answers their expectations. On this ground they are still looking for these things yet to come. Even when their prophetic calculations may set the right time, in which a new degree and further display of the work of Christ's kingdom will take place; yet their natural sense may so far blind their eyes, that they will dispute their own predictions when fulfilled; and though they should continue thus to look and calculate for hundreds of years, they will most certainly be disappointed, and will ever meet with the same disappointment until they enter into the work of cleansing the sanctuary from all sin, which is the true work of the kingdom of Christ. They can then learn by the wisdom there revealed, the real truth, but never before. "For none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand."
- End of Part V, Chapter 3 -
1. IN order for mankind to know the requirements of God, in the day in which they live, it is necessary that they should understand the order of the different dispensations through which God has manifested his work in each, and their increasing nature to the perfect accomplishment of salvation.
2. In the progressive increase of the work of God from the beginning, it is worthy of particular remark, that four general dispensations of Divine Providence and grace have succeeded each other in regular order. Each of these dispensations has fulfilled a particular period of time, and been marked by particular events and a gradual increase. And each succeeding one has been distinguished by its remarkable increase beyond that which preceded it.
3. These four dispensations were evidently pointed out to the prophet Ezekiel, in his vision of the waters that issued out from under the threshold of the house of the Lord. These waters increased from one measure to another till the fourth measure, when they became an impassable river.
4. "And when the man that had the line in his hand, went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterwards he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over; for the waters were risen; waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over."
5. These measures pointed out the order of time for each dispensation; and the increasing rise of the waters showed the progressive increase of spiritual light and life in each, and how greatly each succeeding dispensation excelled that which preceded it. The first measure of these waters, which represented the first general dispensation of the providence and grace of God to man, commenced with the promise of God that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; and closed with the bondage of the children of Israel in Egypt.
6. In this measure of the water to the ankles, is represented the dispensation of the law of nature, which afforded sufficient light and life to direct and support the feet of man, while as yet, he walked upon the earth; that is, he was but an earthly man, living wholly in a state of nature. Nor was he able to rise to any higher state, without a further manifestation of light and power. Yet, while he kept that small measure which was given as waters to the ankles, and directed his steps in obedience to it, he was justified before God, nothing more being required of him.
7. Under this dispensation was the call of God to Abraham, whose posterity, in the line of the promise, were selected and chosen as a peculiar people, to maintain the belief and worship of the living and true God, and to be his true witnesses, to bear testimony of his work to the rest of mankind. And to this chosen generation was given the only institution which, under that dispensation, enjoined a figurative cross upon the carnal nature of man. This was contained in the law of circumcision; and this law distinguished the seed of Abraham as the peculiar people of God above all other nations, and was figurative of the final cross of Christ; that is, the cutting off all the carnal works of the flesh.
8. The second measure of the waters represented the second general dispensation of the work of God to man, which was as waters to the knees, manifesting a further degree of light and life to direct and support the steps of man, while living in the order and works of nature. This dispensation commenced with the deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, and closed with the mission of John the Baptist.
9. Under this dispensation was given the law of Moses, which enjoined a greater cross upon the fallen nature of the flesh, and in which greater and more important duties were required of man, for his justification. Yet these duties were but figurative representations of the spiritual work of God, which was to be made manifest through Christ, in succeeding dispensations. "For the law made nothing perfect; but the bringing in of a better hope did; by which we draw nigh unto God."
10. For although this dispensation was as water to the knees; yet man still walked upon the earth, being yet wholly in a natural or earthly state. Nor was he required under that dispensation, to take up any further cross against a fallen nature than what the law required; and that was sufficient to regulate his conduct in the order of nature during its continuance. Hence, though man was still in a state of nature; yet he could find justification by keeping the law, and in his obedience was still kept under the protection of God, which was like bending his knees in the holy waters of life, while he still walked upon the earth. Thus his steps were directed in such a manner as to become figurative of a future and more spiritual work. But this figurative work ended under the law, and the substance began to appear.
11. The third general dispensation of the grace and providence of God to man began with the first appearing of Christ, and extended to his second appearing. This was the third measure, which was as waters to the loins. This was a spiritual dispensation; and though it did not prevent the people of God from still walking upon the earth, in the midst of the waters, if they chose it; yet the waters of light and life had now risen to the very centre of man's carnal pleasures and affections, where is found the very root of a fallen nature, and the seat of the serpent's influence in man, from whence proceeds the lust of concupiscence.
12. Thus the rising of the waters to the loins, showed that the spiritual work of God had risen to such a height as to point out the dividing line between the flesh and the spirit; between the work of nature and the work of grace. Here was plainly indicated the final destruction of the flesh, and all the foundations of an earthly nature, when the waters should rise to perfection; when man could no longer cleave to the earth, and wade in the waters of life, at the same time.
13. This was plainly manifested in the spiritual life of Jesus Christ, who was not begotten by the will of the flesh, after the order of a carnal commandment; but by the will of God. Here was the first true pattern of that spiritual work, of which all former manifestations of the work of God were but types and shadows.
14. As a man can swim in waters which are to the loins in depth, clear of the earth, or he can still walk upon the earth in the midst of such waters; so it was in this Dispensation. Many denied themselves and took up a full cross against all the works of a fallen, earthly nature, against the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," and rejected that foundation which had a tendency to bind them to the earthly kingdom of this world. These, agreeable to the figure, swam in the holy waters, clear of the earth.
15. But a far greater portion of professing Christians, who were called to be of the spiritual house of Israel, still walked upon the earth, wading in the waters to the loins. That is, they still lived in the order of nature, while surrounded with the spirit of grace, which is as the waters of life to the soul. Such were blessed in their faith and obedience, according to the measure of the light they had received; but could not enjoy that spiritual light and purity which attended those who bore a full cross and wholly renounced the works of a carnal nature. But such were still under the veil of the flesh, as were the Jews, and had their whole travel in the spiritual regeneration to accomplish, after the veil should be taken away in a future Dispensation, when the work of God shall be perfected, in the second appearing of Christ.
16. The fourth Dispensation, which is the great and last display of God's grace to a lost world, was prefigured by the fourth measure of the holy waters, which were now represented as having risen to an impassable river, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over, saith the prophet. This points to the second coming of Christ, in which the waters of life and the divine light of the everlasting gospel will enable all souls that come fairly and honestly into it, to rise above the corruptions of an earthly nature. Here souls must, in a spiritual sense, swim clear of the earth, by taking up a full and final cross against all the base propensities of an earthly, fallen nature, or be lost: for they can now no longer be justified in those things which once bound them to the earth.
17. This great and last Dispensation will decide the final fate of all souls: for certain it is, that none can ever obtain eternal life without coming into these waters of life; nor can they swim in these waters without divesting themselves of everything which has a tendency to sink their souls to the earth. As a man in attempting to swim through a deep river, must throw off all that inclines to sink to the bottom, or he will be borne down with it, and be drowned in the deep. Just so it is with souls that would come into the river of life, they must leave every weight behind them, or perish with it.
18. And as it is impossible for any man to pass a deep and large river, by walking through it, on the earth, at the bottom; so no soul in this day, can ever partake of the waters of life, and pass through the river of life, and inherit the glorious crown of everlasting life, while living in the indulgence of an earthly, carnal nature. He must first forsake all things which belong to the life of this lost world. But those who honestly divest themselves of every evil, and carefully deny themselves of all ungodliness and every worldly lust, and come fairly into this river, will be cleansed from all impurity, and receive everlasting life.
19. It is thus that these waters, which are, in reality, the life and graces of the gospel, will finally prove "a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death," to all the children of men. For if they do not come into these spiritual waters, they never can have spiritual life. And if they do come into them, and still cleave to the earth, they must drown and perish. For "everything that liveth, [in rational life,] which moveth [clear of the earth] whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish." These are living souls who are healed by these waters of life, that go forth into the world, raising souls into the life of the spirit, and preparing them to be caught in the gospel net. Then the separation between the good and bad will take place.
20. These four Dispensations were also represented in a vision to St. John, under the similitude of four living creatures, or rather, four living spirits. These were the living spirits of the four Dispensations, "in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, full of eyes before and behind." These eyes typified the clear light of those manifestations of the work of God, as displayed to man, through these living spirits; in each of the four Dispensations, in their completed order.
21. When these Dispensations are brought to perfection and united in one, by the fourth and last, which is represented by a flying eagle, and alludes to the second appearing of Christ; in this period the everlasting gospel is to be preached, as represented in another vision, by an "angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." "Then shall the end come:" according to the testimony of Jesus Christ.
22. The circumstance of these four living spirits being seen, "in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, giving glory to God, and followed by the four and twenty Elders, in giving praises and acknowledgments to God and the Lamb," was designed to show that the work of God proceeded through them to the Elders, who stood next to them, before all other beings of the natural creation.
23. This clearly represents the spirits of the four Dispensations, through which the whole work of God in heaven and earth proceeded, and which will be brought to perfection by the preaching of the everlasting gospel, in the fourth and last Dispensation. These being called living creatures or living spirits, was designed to show that the life of God was in them, and through them that life was transmitted to man.
24. The lion is represented as first, because he was the first in dignity and power. Among all the beasts in this world, there is none like the lion able to subdue, tear and destroy all others. This dignity and power is preeminently in man, above all other beings in this world; therefore he is represented by the lion. This dignity and power was first perfected in Jesus Christ, who is called the lion of the tribe of Judah, in whom the true spiritual work of God first began to raise man to his true dignity as the Son of God, and in whom also, sufficient power was first manifested to rend and overthrow the kingdom of Satan and the beast, representing the power of fallen nature.
25. Yet it was not so proper to represent the dispensation in which he first appeared as a sacrifice for sin, and to begin the work of redemption by the lion as by the lamb, and by the face of a man. As to their peculiar appearance in their order, the first was like a lion. The first dispensation of God's grace and providence displayed on earth was like a lion. It was the dispensation of man, and exhibited man as the superior and lord of all creatures in this world; man as natural man, able to subdue and reign over all other animals; man possessing an intelligent spirit, shown by divers operations of the work, to be the only principle in the natural creation that ever would be able to rise above all the powers and elements of nature, and subdue and reign over it.
26. In the first dispensation, little else was displayed of the work of God than the exhibition of man as the superior object and agent of all the operations in the natural world. And thus he stood as the lion of this lower world. Jesus Christ, who was of the tribe of Judah, was the proper heir of man; because through the line of Judah, he received the superior and most noble intelligent power and faculties of man's nature; and in him it was manifest that the intelligent nature of man was capable of rising into the elements of Divine Power, and thence became the lion that prevailed above all the human race; so that he was able to unseal the mysteries of Divine Wisdom.
27. The second living creature or spirit was like a calf. This was the second Dispensation, the life and order of which stood mostly in sacrifices and offerings of beasts, particularly the calf or ox kind, which was the most serviceable beast to man. This showed, in a peculiar manner, what natural man was, namely, first in this world an animal, that must be sacrificed and perish. Second, the use and destiny of his nature, that is, to be useful and serviceable, like the ox, to the soul in its terrestrial state; but which must finally, in the real work of God, in the gospel, be slain and sacrificed to God, by the fire of the Holy Spirit, through the flames of which the soul will be sanctified and purified to God, and ascend to the superior and heavenly order in Christ.
28. The third had the face of a man. This was the life and order of the third Dispensation. For though Jesus Christ, the great lion was revealed in that dispensation; and though he was the proper heir of true man, and therefore preeminently the Son of man, ushered in that day; yet the perfection of that work, which was to raise man from under the power of an animal nature, to be a real man, according to the capacity of his nature, was not revealed in its fullness; but only showed, as it were, the face of a man, looking towards the full manifestation of man, as the Son of God, completely risen from the animal nature.
29. Here the rational soul began to look forward, out of that nature; and Jesus Christ was revealed, who was the first whose face was set looking higher than that nature, and who first saw the heavenly road that leads to a higher order than the kingdom of the beast: for whatever light any souls have had before that dispensation, still they all remained in the nature of the beast; nor did the work in their day, ever exhibit any way that led out of it.
30. The fourth was like a flying eagle. This was designed to represent the fourth and last dispensation, which, like the flying eagle, will fly above all birds in the natural heavens, which represents every principle in this world, capable of rising heavenward. But the life of this perfect dispensation, will rise into Heaven itself, and fly to the ends of the earth, and like the keen-sighted eagle, discern its prey from afar, and like the eagle, more powerful and swift than any bird, can dart upon and seize its prey, and no bird can hinder.
31. This is agreeable to what is represented by the Angel's "flying in the midst of Heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation, kindred, tongue and people." Thus this eagle, by the gospel, which is its talons and power, will in its progress, catch every intelligent being; and like the eagle, will tear and rend everything of the animal, fallen nature; but will only feed upon that which is meet for the heavenly body, and will take all that is fit to be incorporated with that body. But like the real eagle, will not feed upon, nor take anything of the putrid body of Antichrist.
32. And though it will tear the wicked in pieces, and those who resist it; yet it will incorporate with its own body nothing that cleaves to the body of Antichrist. For in that day, agreeable to the prediction of Jesus Christ; "Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together." And then the final state of souls will be decided. These are accounted the children of the new and spiritual creation, who have risen and fly above the earthly nature, in the heavenly air or elements of life.
33. It is evident that those living creatures, so called, could not mean, in reality, any particular beings; because they were in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, an improper representation for any animal being; but very proper to represent from whence that life proceeded, and what was its work and order, through which the word of God was manifested in all dispensations.
34. The Lamb was also seen in the midst of the throne, and of the living creatures and elders, and all acknowledged him before the book of revelation could be unsealed. This did not allude to Jesus only, but to that divine anointing, which is very Christ, that comes through the sacrifices and manifestations of the "Lamb of God," which joins the whole work of God, in all dispensations together in one, and by which all the mysteries of God are revealed.
35. The vision of these four living creatures, or rather living spirits must certainly have a very important meaning, relative to the work of God. In this vision they were seen in their figurative appearance, which, according to their numerical order, prefigured the dispensations which they represented. Here they are represented all united in one spirit, ascribing holiness, glory, honor, praise and thanksgiving to the Lord God Almighty, "who was and is, and is to come." This plainly manifests the union and perfection of the work of God, in all dispensations, in the displays of his providence and grace in the fourth and perfect dispensation.
36. We know, of no figures that could be taken to represent the nature and order of the work of God, in each dispensation more appropriate than those seen in this vision. It is worthy of remark, that the order of divine manifestations has been frequently seen in prophetic visions, in the similitude of the number four. As the four cherubims seen united together by the prophet Ezekiel, under the God of Israel, called living creatures or spirits. These signified the four dispensations when brought to perfection, in and upon which the fullness of the work and glory of the God of true Israel is progressively revealed.
37. See also the four carpenters; seen in the visions of Zechariah, (chap. 1:20.) These represent the builders in the four dispensations: these are united in the fourth dispensation, and will destroy the horns or power of the Gentiles, by which Antichrist has scattered spiritual Judah and Israel, and cast down the holy sanctuary. But they will gather the living materials of the holy house of Israel, and restore the holy people and build the temple of God. Thus "they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord." And the four chariots which went forth and walked through the earth. These were the heavenly messengers of the four dispensations, as the Angel declared. These are the four spirits of the heavens which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth, that is, the four living spirits.
- End of Part V, Chapter 4 -
1. THE preceding explanation of the progressive rise and increase of the four Dispensations, brings to view the importance and necessity of noticing the increasing displays of divine revelation to man, in every increasing degree of the work of God, in all ages of the world, to the end of time. Whatever knowledge man may obtain by natural wisdom, concerning the things of nature, certain it is, that nothing in reality can be known of the true God, nor of His Divine nature; nor can anything be known of the true nature of any spiritual beings or principles, except by Divine revelation.
2. All the knowledge that man ever did or ever can obtain by any means short of this, ever has and ever will leave him without the real knowledge of a future state, or of the ultimate destiny of his creation and the retributions of eternity. These things he cannot know without a teacher truly inspired from Heaven, from whence alone that power and knowledge can originate, and can be displayed to mortals. This is evident from the unsuccessful researches of natural wisdom in all ages: for the wisdom of the most wise has universally failed of finding out the true God, or of learning the way of salvation from sin, or of gaining that which their souls desired.
3. Therefore St. Paul truly saith, "What man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." Hence it is clearly evident that the things of God are known only by his Spirit. They can never be known by man, except through divine revelation. This will doubtless be readily admitted by all professors of Christianity. But at the same time, it appears to be a general sentiment among them, that all divinely inspired communications closed with the Apostles; that all needful revelation, to the end of time, is contained in what is called The canon of Scripture.
4. But we would ask what evidence have they that the canon of scripture was compiled and closed by Divine authority? We have no such evidence. On the contrary, this was evidently done, according to all the accounts we have, by natural men, destitute of any authority from the spirit of God. And we would ask, Do not those who have assumed such authority, presumptuously tempt God, and "limit the Holy One of Israel;" as did Israel of old? Is not this causing the Holy One of Israel to cease from before them? And is it not causing themselves to be led by the commandments of men, instead of the Spirit of God?
5. But why should revelation cease? Is not God "the same yesterday, today and forever?" Does God cease to work, or to reveal himself to his people? If not, how then has revelation ceased? Hear the words of the Savior. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Surely then, this manifestation coming from Christ, must be divine revelation. Will anyone dispute his promises? Certainly none that have faith in him. Then it conclusively follows, that such as keep his commandments, will receive divine revelations from his spirit.
6. This was the case with the Primitive Christians; so long as they walked, in a good degree, in his commandments, they were favored with divine revelations, by which the mind and will of God was made known to them, according to their then present needs, as attested by the most authentic records. But when they ceased to keep the commands of Christ, they fell into the spirit and nature of the world, and shut out the spirit of Christ; therefore they could not receive his promise. And after having, by their disobedience, shut the avenues of revelation from their own faithless hearts, they presumed by their natural sagacity to close the avenue to all others, by confining divine revelation, wholly to the Bible, which they had limited and imposed upon mankind as the only infallible word of God.
7. They have evidently followed the ways of their predecessors, the Scribes and Pharisees of old, upon whom Christ pronounced a woe, because they took away the key of knowledge, and would neither enter in themselves nor suffer others to enter. Thus they shut up the kingdom of Heaven; and they and their deluded followers have all fallen under this woe, and remain under it to this day; for they have thereby lost the revelation of the Divine Spirit, which is the only sure key to the knowledge of the things of God.
8. But we would ask, on what grounds can anyone suppose that there is never to be any further revelation from Heaven, than that which is contained in the Bible? Certainly none of the works of the Creator prove any such thing. All the productions and works of nature are brought forth, and increase and grow to maturity by a continually increasing administration of the same elements from their beginning; and without this continual administration they must of necessity, wither and die.
9. Again, all the natural and artificial arts and sciences among men, are brought forth by newly revealed principles of natural light, and may with propriety be termed the effects of natural revelation. They are generally revealed to some individual, and are improved and brought to maturity by the continual increase of knowledge and the application of its original principles. The things of nature have generally been progressing in this manner, for thousands of years, though very slowly during the dark ages. And it may be seen by every observer that these natural revelations and improvements are now more frequent and rapidly increasing, at the present time than in any preceding age of the world.
10. These things all can see; and shall the spiritual work of God alone remain stationary? For in comparison with this, all earthly knowledge and all natural improvements sink into insignificance "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul. Though he should gain all the natural knowledge in the universe, and all natural things therein, he could not thereby gain either the knowledge or power of salvation. For the world by wisdom never did and never can know God. Hence we see the indispensable necessity of the continual influence and application of the Spirit of God, in order to know the things that concern the eternal welfare of the soul, and to gain the treasures of immortality: and these can be received only by divine revelation.
11. In no part of the scriptures is the least intimation given, that the revelations of the Divine and Holy Spirit to man, will ever cease; but there are many declarations to the contrary. Thus saith the Lord by the prophet Isaiah: "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." How is this prophecy to be fulfilled without a greater display of divine revelation and power than has ever yet appeared on earth?
12. If it be answered that this will be effected by the extensive circulation of the scriptures, we would then ask: How much have those nations among whom the Bible has been most extensively circulated, for ages past, and at a vast expense, been benefited thereby? And how far has the knowledge of the Lord covered the earth by these expensive emissions? And is it not indeed very evident that some more powerful agents than the letters and words of the Bible and its hireling missionaries, must be sent forth by divine revelation, in order to effect this great work, which the Lord has promised by the prophet.
13. Again, saith the prophet: "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Is this fulfilled among those who profess to be set as watchmen and guides merely by bible authority? Are they not more and more bewildered in their senses, and divided in their opinions, the more the Bible is studied and commented upon among them, without the Divine Spirit and light of revelation? If this be so, are they not, with all their bible knowledge, blind guides, destitute of the only true guide, the revelation of the Holy Spirit, which Christ promised to those who kept his commandments? "If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Hence they do not receive it, because they do not ask in faith.
14. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable to the man of God," and is a true witness for Christ; but the scriptures cannot be truly understood, except by inspiration of the Spirit that gave them. Without this, the natural man is exposed to wrest them to his own destruction, as is evident from the many pernicious principles professedly founded upon the scriptures. Have the authors of these principles received their instructions from Heaven? Certainly not. Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. Has God ever repealed this promise? Or dare any man say that it does not extend to the end of time?
15. In vain do blind mortals attempt to limit the divine inspirations of Heaven, or to declare the revelations of God to man to be finished, and no more to be expected. God hath declared no such thing. Thus saith the Lord by the prophet Joel, as quoted in Acts 2:17: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams."2 Can any rational mind believe that this prophecy can be fulfilled without such an extensive outpouring of the Spirit of God, in revelations, visions and prophecies as never has been witnessed on earth, since man was created?
16. St. Peter indeed quotes this prophecy, and applies it to the outpouring of the spirit on the day of Pentecost. But as the apostle testified that they knew in part and prophesied in part; when that which was perfect should come, then that which was in part should be done away. Hence this prophecy could be but in part fulfilled in that day, and under that dispensation. Besides, the Spirit was far from being poured out upon all flesh in that day. In another discourse Peter foretells the times of refreshing which shall come from the presence of the Lord, in a future dispensation, which he calls the times of the restitution of all things."
17. These things therefore remain to be accomplished in the latter days, in the dispensation of Christ's second coming, when "he shall appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation." We therefore have the promise of a time when the displays of Divine Light and Power will be revealed in such a marvelous manner as to fulfill the concluding part of the prophecy; "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." That is to say, sufficient light and power will be revealed, that all souls who will receive and faithfully obey the final call, will find salvation from all sin.
18. By divine revelation, in the union of the first and second appearing of Christ, the unchangeable principles of godliness have been brought to light and established as the foundation of the eternal law of life, for the government of all the followers of Christ forever. And no divine revelation ever will or ever can be given contrary to these principles. Nothing contrary to the holy life and doctrines of the Savior, can ever stand in his kingdom: for there is no true gospel but in the revelation of his Divine nature. But the work of his kingdom will forever increase from one degree of order and glory to another. Then, of course, there certainly must be a continued revelation to direct and bring forth the work in every increasing degree of this order.
19. The Savior taught us in praying, to say, "Give us this day our daily bread;" for we need a daily supply. The food that supplied our wants last year, effected the object for which it was designed; but can be of no use to us now. We must have a fresh supply to support life, as we advance along the path of our natural existence. So with spiritual food: the revelation of God to us, is spiritual food to the soul; and when we have received it, we can enjoy the benefit of it. But when it has effected its object and done its work, it can do no more for us at that time; we shall need another supply; a further revelation then becomes necessary for our further support.
20. For if we should go back to our former religious experience and bible revelation, with a view to feed upon that, and refuse to be led by present revelation, in the present degree of God's work, we should find no substance in it; it would be like feeding upon husks. Therefore the present gift of God, which is present revelation, is always necessary for our support. A past revelation, though important in its day, is like past time, it cannot be recalled. Therefore let all believers who have embraced the gospel of Christ's second appearing, be careful how they look back to the order of their former experience, and trust in that for support. They must have and feel the present experience of a present revelation.
21. But all the good fruit brought forth by the preceding revelation, may be gathered and be useful, and be still further perfected in the increasing work of a future degree. But the order of that future work may be as different from the former as the making of bread for the food of man is different from the manner and work of raising the grain.
22. Here is the ground on which many who have been zealous in the cause of religion, and received great light in a former degree of the work of God, yet fail to take hold of an increasing degree of the work which follows. They do not comprehend the spiritual benefit of this proffered advancement; but have, in their own wisdom, devised something to correspond with their own views. If they cannot do this, they are exposed, and often do reject the whole work, lose their former convictions and fall back to the world, and are lost. We would that all such souls be solemnly warned by this consideration, and beware of indulging a spirit of unbelief in the proffered increase of gospel light, by means of which many have missed their day of salvation.
23. When the primitive church fell and lost the revelation of the Holy Spirit, and blended their doctrines with the principles of the world, the power of the true gospel of Christ was withdrawn from it, and could never be restored and brought to light in its purity, without a second revelation of the same Divine Spirit, in more perfect order than in the first revelation. For that degree of light and power which could not keep the church from falling, could not restore it when fallen.
24. But we bless that God from whom flows every good and perfect gift, that we live to see the day in which, by the second appearing of Christ, the work of the everlasting gospel has been revived and brought to light in its purity. And by this divine revelation, all his promises are effected: for the church of the latter day has been thereby brought forth and established in more perfect order than it ever was before on earth. This revelation is the rock on which Christ promised to build his church, and in this church, from its first rise, all those marvelous operations promised by prophetic revelation, have been continually fulfilling.
25. In this church, all the apostolic gifts have been revived, and the power of salvation from sin is attainable by every faithful soul. And for several years past this prophecy of Joel has been fulfilling in a marvelous manner, by a wonderful outpouring of the Divine Spirit from the Heavens, among these chosen people, attended with greater flowings of heavenly gifts than we have any account of in any age of the world, and thousands now among us are living witnesses of these things.
26. And it is further evident to the impartial observer, that this prophecy is also gradually fulfilling among the children of men, by a similar outpouring of the Spirit, and the movements of the spiritual elements, attended with these promised gifts to many. These are preparatory to the ushering in of the everlasting gospel of salvation.
27. But let all souls understand that God hath an established order in which he works by agents of his own appointment; and no soul can find the light and power of salvation without coming to this order. An evident example of this may be seen in the case of Saul of Tarsus, and Cornelius the centurion. For although the former was convicted by a supernatural vision of Christ; and the latter was directed by an angel where to send for a messenger of the word of salvation; yet both had to receive the gospel and be instructed in their duty by a living member of the visible church or body of Christ on earth.
28. Christ promised to give to his witnesses the keys of the kingdom of heaven. If so, then none could enter, unless the way could be opened by those keys through these witnesses: and this could not be done, unless the applicants would receive their testimony and obey their directions. If then, these keys are not restored to the church of this day, then salvation is not placed in Zion, according to the promise, for certainly they have been lost for ages, and none have been able to enter the work of the kingdom during this period.
29. But if they have been restored, then no soul can enter the kingdom except the way be opened by those witnesses of Christ whom he hath appointed to lead his people; and those who would enter, must enter by faith and obedience to the directions of those witnesses. All who faithfully do this, and thus prove these principles, will gain that light and power in their own souls, that they will have the witness in themselves, that this is the revelation of Christ, and that the work is truly of God.
30. Thus all who sincerely desire it, and are willing to sacrifice all to do the will of God, may obtain the revelation of the Divine Spirit, by which they will know that the work is of God, and will gain the final witness, even eternal life. But those who cannot open the door into the kingdom of Heaven for the true seeker, are not the true ministers of Christ, and by their want of this divine power, they are known to every true believer.
31. But where the true body of Christ is, there the honest seeker finds his promises verified: "He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me." Again, he promised that miraculous signs and gifts should follow them that believe; "In my name shall they cast out devils, "they shall speak with new tongues," etc. Shall we believe his words, or shall we believe those blind guides, that by their unbelief and unrighteous works, clearly prove that they do not possess the Spirit of God? But faithful souls in this day, are witnesses that these promises are daily fulfilling.
- End of Part V, Chapter 5 -
More Excerpts from the "Millennial Church"
Index of More "Shaker Manuscripts On-Line "