Page images
PDF
EPUB

and invasions. The Emperor of Germany declared war with the Duke of Saxony, and the principal men who favoured and received Luther's doctrine. But they could not obtain their end ; they could not suppress the Reformation. For the same end, some time after, the King of Spain maintained a long war with Holland and the Low Countries. But those cruel wars issued greatly to the disadvantage of the Romish church, as they occasioned the setting up of one of the most powerful Protestant states in Europe. The design of the Spanish invasion of England in Queen Elizabeth's time, was to suppress and root out the Reformed religion; and therefore they brought in their fleet all manner of instruments of cruelty wherewith to torture the Protestants who would not renounce the Protestant religion. But their design was totally baffled, and their mighty fleet in a great measure ruined.

4. Satan has opposed the Reformation with cruel persecutions. The persecutions with which the Protestants have been harassed by the church of Rome, have in many respects been far beyond any of the Heathen persecutions. So that Antichrist has proved the greatest and most cruel enemy to the church of Christ that ever was in the world, in this, as well as in all other respects; agreeable to the description given of the church of Rome, Rev. xvii. " And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” And, chap. xviii. 24. 66 And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all them that were slain upon the earth.”

The Heathen persecutions had been very dreadful; but now persecution by the church of Rome was improved, and studied, and cultivated, as an art or science. Such ways of afflicting and tormenting were found out, as are beyond the invention of ordinary men, or men unstudied in those things ; and beyond the invention of all former ages. And that persecution might be managed the more effectually, there were certain societies of men established in various parts of the Popish dominions, whose business it should be to study, and improve, and practise persecution in its highest perfection, viz. the courts of inquisition. The particular histories of the Romish persecution, and their courts us inquisition, will give that idea which a few words cannut express.

When the Reformation began, the beast with seven heads and ien horns began to rage in a dreadful manner. The church of Rome renewed its persecution of the poor Waldenses, and great multitudes of them were cruelly tortured and put to death. Soon after the Reformation, there were terrible persecutions in various parts of Germany; and especially in Bohemia, which lasted for thirty years together ; in which so much blood was shed for the saße of religion, that a certain

writer compares it to the plenty of waters of the great rivers of Germany. "The countries of Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary, were in like manner deluged with Protestant blood.

By means of these and other cruel persecutions, the Protestant religion was in a great measure suppressed in Bohemia, the Palatinate, and Hungary, which before were Protestant countries. Thus was fulfilled what was foretold of the little horn, Dan. vii. 20, 21. and of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell, even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.” And what was foretold of the beast having seven heads and ten horns, Rev. xiii. 7. « And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations."

Holland and the other Low Countries were for many years a scene of nothing but the most affecting and amazing cruelties, being deluged with the blood of Protestants, under the merciless hands of the Spaniards, to whom they were then in gubjection. But in this persecution, the devil in a great measure failed of his purpose; as it issued in a great part of the Netherlands casting off the Spanish yoke, and setting up a wealthy and powerful Protestant state, to the great defence of the Protestant cause ever since.

France also is another country, which, since the Reformation, in some respects, perhaps more than any other, has been a scene of dreadful cruelties suffered by the Protestants. After many cruelties had been exercised toward the Protestants in that kingdom, there was begun a persecution of them in the year fifteen hundred and seventy-one, in the reign of Charles IX. king of France. It began with a cruel massacre, wherein seventy thousand Protestants were slain in a few days, as the king boasted ; and in all this persecution, he slew, as is supposed, three hundred thousand martyrs. And it is reckoned, that about this time, within thirty years, there were martyred in this kingdom, for the Protestant rehgion, thirty-nine princes, one hundred and forty-eight counts, two hundred and thirty-four batons, one hundred and forty-seven thousand five hundred and eighteen gentlemen, and seven hundred and sixty thousand common people.

But all these persecutions were, for exquisite cruelty, far exceeded by those which followed in the reign of Lewis XIV. which indeed are supposed to exceed all others; and being long continued, by reason of the long reign of that king, they almost wholly extirpated the Protestant religion out of that kingdom, where had flourished a multitude of famous Pro

testant churches. Thus it was given to the beast to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.

There was also a terrible persecution in England in Queen Mary's time, wherein great numbers in all parts of the kingdom wete burnt alive. And after this, though the Protestant religion has been for the most part established by law in England, yet there have been very severe persecutions by the high churchmen, who symbolize in many things with the Papists. Such was that which occasioned our forefathers to flee from their native country, and to come and settle in this land, which was then a hideous howling wilderness. And these persecutions were continued with little intermission till King William came to the throne.

Scotland has also been the scene, for many years together, of cruelties and blood by the hands of high churchmen, such as came very little short of the Popish persecution in Queen Mary's days, and in many things much exceeded it, which con. tinued till they were delivered by King William.

Ireland also has been, as it were, overwhelmed with Protestant blood. In the days of King Charles I. of England, above two hundred thousand Protestants were cruelly murdered in that kingdom in a few days; the Papists, by a secret agreement, rising at an appointed time, intending to kill every Protestant in the kingdom at once.

Besides these, there have been very cruel persecutions in Italy and Spain, and other places, which I shall not stand to relate.— Thus did the devil, and his great minister, Antichrist, rage with such violence and cruelty against the church of Christ! and thus did the whore of Babylon make herself drunk with blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus! By these persecutions the Protestant church has been much diminished ! Yet have they not been able to prevail ; but still the Protestant church is upheld, and Christ fulfils his promise, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

5. The last kind of opposition that Satan has made to the Reformation is by corrupt opinions. The first opposition of this kind was by the sect of the Anabaptists, which began about four or five years after the Reformation itself. This sect, as it first appeared in Germany, were vastly more extravagant than the present Anabaptists are in England. They held a great many exceeding corrupt opinions. One tenet of theirs was, That there ought to be no civil authority, and that it was lawful to rebel against it. And on this principle they refused to submit to magistrates, or any human laws; and gathered together in vast armies, to defend themselves against their civil rulers and put all Germany into an uproar, and so kept it for some time.

The next opposition of this kind to the Reformation was that which was made by enthusiasts. Those are called enthusiasts who falsely pretend to be inspired hy the Holy Ghost, as the prophets were. These began in Germany about ten years after Luther began the Reformation; and there arose various sects of them, who were exceeding wild and extravagant. The followers of these are the Quakers in England, and other parts of the British dominions.

The next of these were the Socinians, who had their beginning chiefly in Poland, by the teaching of Lælius Socinus and Faustus Socinus. They held, that Christ was a mere man, and denied Christ's satisfaction and most of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. Their heresy has since been greatly propagated among Protestants in Poland, Germany, Holland, England, and other places.

After these arose the Arminians. They take their name from a Dutchman, whose name was Jacobus Van Harmin, which turned into Latin, is called Jacobus Arminius; and from his name the whole sect are called Arminians. This Jacobus Arminius was first a minister at Amsterdam, and then a professor of divinity in the university of Leyden. He had many followers in Holland. There was upon this a synod of all the reformed churches called together, who met at Dort in Holland, The synod of Dort condemned them; but yet they spread and prevailed. They began to prevail in England in the reign of Charles I. especially in the church of EnglandThe church of England divines before that were almost universally Calvinists : but since that, Arminianism has gradually more and more prevailed, till they are become almost universally Arminians. And not only so, but Arminianism has greatly prevailed among the Dissenters, and has spread greatly in NewEngland, as well as Old.

Since this, Arianism has been revived. Arianism, a little after Constantine's time, almost swallowed up the Christian world, like a flood out of the mouth of the serpe which threatened to swallow up

the woman. And of late years, this heresy has been revived in England, and greatly prevails there, both in the church of England, and among Dissenters. These hold, that Christ is but a mere creature, though they grant that he is the greatest of all creatures.

Another thing which has of late exceedingly prevailed among Protestants, and especially in England, is Deism. The Deists wholly cast off the Christian religion, and are professed infidels. Indeed they own the being of God, but deny any revealed religion, or any word of God at all; and say, that God has given mankind' no other light to walk by but their own reason. With these opinions our nation, which is the

principal nation of the Reformation, is very much over-run, and they prevail more and more. Thus much concerning the opposition that Satan has made against the Reformation.

III. I proceed now to show what success the gospel has had in these later times of the Reformed church. This success may be reduced to three heads : 1. Reformation in doctrine and worship in countries called Christian ; 2. Propagation of the gospel among the Heathen; 3. Revival of religion in the power and practice of it.

1. As to the first, viz, reformation in doctrine, the most considerable success of late has been in the empire of Muscovy, which is a country of vast extent. The people of this country, so many of them as call themselves Christians, professed to be of the Greek church; but were barbarously ignorant, and very superstitious, till of late years. Their late Emperor Peter the Great, set himself to reform his dominions, took great pains to bring them out of their darkness, and to have them instructed in religion. To that end, he set up schools of learning, ordered the Bible to be printed in the language of the country, made a law that every family should keep the holy scriptures in their houses, that every person should be able to read the same, and that no person should be allowed to marry till they were able to read the scriptures. He also reformed the churches of his country of many of their superstitions, whereby the religion professed and practised in Muscovy is much nearer to that of the Protestants than formerly it used to be. This emperor gave great encouragement to the exercise of the Protestant religion in his dominions. And since that, Muscovy is become a land of light, in comparison of what it was fifty years past.

2. As to the second kind of success which the gospel has lately had, viz. its propagation among the Heathen, I would take notice of three things.

(1.) The propagation of the gospel among the Heathen here in America. This American continent, which is a very great part of the world, and, together with its neighbouring seas adjoining, takes up one side of the globe, was wholly unknown to all Christian nations till these latter times. It was not known that there was any such part of the world, though it was very full of people; and therefore the devil had this part of the world as it were secure to himself, out of the reach of the light of the gospel, and so out of the way of molestation in his dominion over them. Here the many nations of Indians worshipped him as God from age to age, while the gospel was confined to the opposite side of the globe. It is probably supposed, from some remaining accounts, that the occasion of first peopling America was this : that the devil, being alarmed and surprised by the wonderful success of the

« PreviousContinue »