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understand every thing, it is the dictate of wisdom to select those branches of knowledge, as the object of pursuit, which are in themselves the most valuable and important. Unless we act upon this principle, and regulate our conduct by it, we may be squandering away the precious hours of life in the veriest trifles, while the acquisition of pearls is within our reach and neglected by us.
HISTORY, taking the term in its general acceptation, has been not inaptly defined—“Philosophy teaching by examples how to conduct ourselves in every situation of private or public life.” But though history in general has its usefulnessinenlarging the mind, ministering to its gratification, and furnishing lessons of instruction for the conduct of human life, it is not intended that it should be the subject of the present Course of Lectures : and for this, among other reasons, because it is far too extensive a province to be traversed by me, or perhaps explored by yourselves, without more leisure and better opportunities of making our way through it than what most of us possess. It is not my intention, therefore, to take up your time in tracing the rise and fall of the various empires, states, and kingdoms of this world ; or in turning over the annals of blood, as the late Dr. Johnson, in his emphatical manner, designated the study of General History: our time and attention will, I hope, be much more agreeably and profitably employed by confining ourselves to one branch of this extensive subject, namely, the History of the Christian church, commencing with its origin and pursuing the narrative down to the times in which we live.
I cannot think that any apology is necessary for the choice we have made of a subject as the basis of these Lectures. Ecclesiastical history is the history of the origin, progress, and dissemination of the Christian religion ; and it is a most important branch of divine philosophy. It opens up to our view many interesting discoveries of the dealings of God with our guilty race; and it cannot be too carefully prosecuted. It will afford us abundant opportunities of witnessing how the world stands affected towards the doctrine of the cross—it will illustrate the enmity between the two seeds, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, which indeed had existed from the beginning, Gen. iii. 15, but which began to display itself more signally when the king
dom of Christ was set up by means of the preaching of the everlasting gospel-and it will afford proof of the perpetual agency of the wicked one in corrupting the Gospel so as to accommodate it to the reigning lusts of the human heart, and his malice and rage in persecuting those who in every age have kept the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
But, notwithstanding the high claims which this subject has upon our attention, it has too often been regarded as of little moment to Christians in general. It may be considered, say some, as forming perhaps a useful branch of study for theologians intending to devote themselves to the work of the ministry, but as containing little that deserves the regard of the simple disciple of the Saviour. To such a representation of the matter, however, it is impossible for me to subscribe. For, next to the Gospel itself, which is the Wisdom of God and the Power of God to the salvation of all that believe, I am compelled to rank, in point of interest and importance, the reception which it has met with in the world. Its happy effects in subverting the empire of darkness-diminishing the mass of idolatry, superstition, and vice-conveying to men the justest views of the divine character, and giving the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins -emancipating myriads of the human race from the slavery of sin and Satan, and training them up for a state of endless felicity in the world to come; such are the all-important ends of that dispensation which has the church or kingdom of Christ for its centre and basis. Little as this kingdom is thought of by the wise and mighty of this world, it is of infinitely more importance than all the world besides. If this assertion should seem strange to any of you, let me entreat you to consider for a moment what it was that brought the Lord of life and glory into our worldthat led him to forego the happiness and bliss of the heavenly state-to assume human nature into personal union with the divine-to tabernacle among us as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and in that state to subject himself to persecution, to shame and suffering, and the accursed death of the cross-to all that the malice of earth and hell could inflict
upon him. It was to lay the foundation of this kingdom : and it is for the sake of this kingdom, in which' the Saviour himself reigns and of which the sole government is placed upon his
shoulders, that the globe which we inhabit is continued in existence; for, when the last subject of this kingdom shall be ga
the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up;" for being under the curse, on account of sin, this world is “reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Surely a theme which connects with it the destinies of all the human race can never be unimportant to any of them.
But there is still another view to be taken of this subject, the church or kingdom of Christ, which renders it peculiarly worthy of the Christian's study, and that is the connexion which it has with Old Testament prophecy.
The subject of prophecy is unquestionably one of the most sublime and interesting themes which can occupy the human mind. A great part of the Jewish Scriptures is made up of it; and, if you ask what is its main scope and ultimate design, we answer, that it is to bear testimony to Jesus Christ, and the affairs of his kingdom, Rev. xix. 10. It commenced with the fall of man, and continued to wind its course like a mighty river through successive ages and with increasing brightness, till the coming of the long expected Messiah, in whose advent many of the prophecies obtained their accomplishment. But there are numerous others which respected the setting up of his kingdom in the world; in which its humble origin, its growing extent, its grandeur and perpetuity, together with the blessings which its subjects should enjoy, are all distinctly marked and strongly pourtrayed. These predictions reach forward from the period of the setting up of this kingdom in the world to the consummation of all things—and it is a subject every way worthy of the great God from whose infinite mind it emanated, and to whom alone it appertains to declare the end from the beginning. Of these predictions some are fulfilling in the times that are passing over us; such is the consumption of Antichrist," the man of sin, the son of perdition, whom the Lord is destroying by the brightness of his coming."
To convince you of the justness of what I have now said, permit me to direct your attention to the astonishing occur
rences which have taken place within the last few weeks in a neighbouring country, France-one of the ten kingdoms which gave its strength and power to the beast, according to Rev, xvii. 13. During 1260 years has that monarchy been the main pillar and support of the Antichristian system. The persecutions which from age to age it has carried on against the faithful disciples of Christ, particularly the Albigenses, the Waldenses, and the Huguenots, for the sake of upholding a system of idolatry, superstition, and wickedness—in other words, the kingdom of the clergy in opposition to the kingdom of Christ—are an indelible stigma on the pages of its history. Yet this monstrous system has happily come to an end, in the age in which we live—the Lord has privileged us to witness its termination. Popery is no longer the established religion of France; the connexion between church and state is finally and for ever dissolved in that country ; and the Catholic priesthood is at once tumbled from its eminence—the sword of persecution has there dropped from their palsied hand, and the clergy are left to gnaw their tongues with pain on account of the darkness which now fills their kingdom. But this is a subject which must often come before us in the course of these Lectures, and therefore I forbear to dwell further upon it in this place.
In order to illustrate the connexion between the prophecies of the Old Testament and the History of Christianity or Kingdom of Christ in the world, allow me to point you to that extraordinary prediction which is contained in Dan.ü. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had a dream in which it was supernaturally made known to him what should take place in the times subsequent to those in which he lived. He beheld a great image set up before him of exceeding brightness, while the form thereof was very terrible to look upon. The head of the image was of fine gold, his breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, the legs of iron, and the feet part of iron and part of clay. But, while the monarch was intently gazing upon it, lo! a stone, which was cut out of a mountain without hands, smote this colossal image upon the feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces, whence they became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors, and the wind carried them away, so that no place was found for them; and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth, ver. 31–35. The interpretation which the prophet Daniel gave of this dream is this :—The image represented the four great empires, viz. the Babylonian (which was then in existence, and over which Nebuchadnezzar reigned), the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman, all of which succeeded it; while the stone cut out of the mountain without hands denoted a kingdom which the God of heaven should set up, and which should never be destroyed—a kingdom which should not be left to other people, but which should break in pieces and consume all those kingdoms and stand for ever. This is the kingdom of the Messiah, the church of the living God, the history of which is to form the subject of these Lectures. And, from the prophetic description which is here given of it, we learn that at its commencement it was to be of the most humble and uninviting cast—that it should increase by little and little, until itself became a great mountain and filled the whole earth—and that so far from being liable to ruin and destruction, like the kingdoms of this world, it should break in pieces and consume all of them and itself stand for ever. Now these characteristics of the kingdom or church of Christ you will do well to keep constantly in mind while attending to these Lectures, and you will thereby be the better able to judge how far this prophecy has been fulfilled.
The remarks now made will, I hope, be thought sufficient to justify the view which I entertain of the importance of the subject, and I therefore proceed to another topic, viz. to offer some remarks on the method that has been usually adopted for writing ecclesiastical history, but to which in my humble judgment there are many and formidable objections--all of which may
be traced to the same source, and originate in one common error. But, that you may fully comprehend my meaning and be better able to judge of its correctness, I must trouble you with a brief notice of the principal treatises on this subject that are extant in our language.
The ecclesiastical histories which are now chiefly in request in this country are those of Dupin, Mosheim, and Milner; concerning each of which I have a few things to say.
The first of the writers now mentioned, namely Dupin, was a Frenchman, born at Paris in 1657, and descended from an an