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PERILOUS TIMES IN THE LAST DAYS.*

2 TIM. iii. 1,

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

IN these words we have three things.

1. The notification of an event as future; " perilous times shall come." Not that there are any times in themselves perilous, or unlucky days, as the superstitious imagine; but they are perilous in respect of the evil that is a-going in them among men, ver. 2, &c. The word properly signifies difficult; times wherein it will be hard for people to keep their feet, to know how to carry themselves, to keep out of danger, and keep a good conscience; and these are perilous times.

Of these it is said, they "shall come," [Gr. shall be on.] They will be on men, in the course of providence, to try what metal they are of; as darkness comes on after light, and adversity after prosperity, in their turn.

2. The time of that event; "in the last days." These are, in scripture-style, the days of the Messias, the days of the gospel, even that whole period, according to Acts ii. 17, " And it shall come to pass in the last days, (saith God), I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." Heb. i. 1, 2, "God who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Sou." It is an Old Testament expression, which sounds "the last of the days;" and days being used absolutely, these days are the days of the world, running from the creation to the end. Now, the days of the gospel are the last part of these days, the concluding period of time. In these last days are several particular periods; the first of which was the last time of the Jewish state, beginning from the time of our Saviour, to the destruction of Jerusalem; and more periods followed, and some are yet to come; but from the time of our Saviour to the end of the world, is "the last days."

3. The notice to be taken of that event; "This know also;" rather, "Now know this;" be informed of this, consider it duly, and lay it to heart, that being forewarned, ye may be armed against the "perilous times."

A sermon preached at Ettrick, November 14, 1731; a fast day appointed by the Synod of Merse and Teviotdale.

DOCTRINE. As the days of the gospel are the last days, so men should know there are in the course of providence difficult and perilous times that come on in these days.

In discoursing this doctrine, we shall consider,

I. The days of the gospel as the last days.

II. The difficult and perilous times that come on in gospel-days. III. Lastly, Apply.

I. We shall consider "the days of the gospel as the last days." And so we may take them up in a threefold view.

1. As the last days of the world, the latter end of time. With relation to them that oath is made; Rev. x. 6, "That there should be time no longer." The world has lasted long now, it must have an end; and the last part of its time is begun, and far on. The morning and forenoon of the world are over; it is afternoon with it now, and drawing toward the evening.

2. As the days of the last dispensation of grace towards the world, with which God's dealing with sinners for reconciliation shall be closed; according to Rev. x. 7, "In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, the mystery of God shall be finished." There have been three dispensations of grace in the world; the Patriarchal dispensation in the first days; the Mosaical dispensation in the middle days; and now the Christian dispensation in the last days. The first two are now off the stage, and shall never come on again; the third now is; and after it there shall never be another.

3. As the best days of the world in respect of the greatest advantages attending them. The last works of God are always the greatest, as ye may see in the account of the creation; Gen. i; so the circumstances of the world to come, are greater than those of this. The gospel-dispensation far excels the other two, in clearness, extensiveness, and efficacy, through a larger measure of the Spirit. One may say, Have there not been perilous times in all the days? Noah's times in the first; the Egyptian bondage, Babylonish captivity, Antiochus's persecution, &c., in the middle days; what wonder there be so in the last days? So indeed we say now; but cousider the Old Testament prophecies of the last days, and the big expectations that behoved to be raised thereupon; and ye will see need for this caution, frequent among the apostles, that even in the "last days," for as great days as they were to be, there were perilous times to be on."

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USE of this point.

1. Take heed how ye improve the gospel. Delay not to comply with the call thereof; for ere long an account will be required of

it. The days of it are the last days of the world, wherein time comes to an end, and the world must make their account for the entertainment they have given it. Behold he cometh" from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ;" 2 Thess. i. 7, 8.

2. Ye must be saved by falling in with the gospel-call and method of salvation, or else perish; for it is the last dispensation of grace. It is God's last method with a sinful lost world; after which they are not to expect a new one. It is the last ship going off for Immanuel's land; if ye slight it, ye will have no more opportunity for ever; Heb. x. 26, "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins."

3. The contempt of the gospel is the most dangerous adventure ever the world made, and will have the most terrible issue; gospeldays being the last and best; and the better are the days, the contempt will be the more dangerous. The contempt of the Patriarchal dispensation was punished by the flood; of the Mosaical, by the Babylonish captivity, and other heavy plagues; 2 Chron. xxxvi. 21 How terrible must the punishment be of the contempt of the gospel dispensation? The destruction of Jerusalem was the first swatch of it, the conflagration of the world will be the issue.

4. Lastly, There may be great and good things in days which yet are dangerous days; "in the last days shall be perilous times." The best days that ever Judea saw, were in the days that went before the destruction of Jerusalem; the Spirit was poured out in such a measure as never took place before nor since; Acts ii. 17, forecited; but there came after a pouring out of "wrath to the uttermost ;" 1 Thess. ii. 16. In these days of ours there are great things not to be overlooked. Learning, and the art of civil management in improving of ground and manufactures, are carried to a pitch they were not at before; which sometimes brings in mind the case of the Cainites, among whom arts flourished while piety went to wreck, as ye may read, Gen. iv. 20-22. Nay there are good things done in these our days, great good things, the like to which were never done before in our nation; particularly the erecting of schools for propagating Christian knowledge in the highlands and islands, the erecting of the Infirmary in Edinburgh. Nay, some glorious gospeltruths have been in our days set in an uncommon light. And yet for all they are certainly most perilous days. Which brings me to consider,

II. The difficult and perilous times that come on in gospel-days.

Even in the days of the gospel, in which sometimes there are sweet and glorious times, yet at other times there come difficult and perilous times.

We must inquire what makes these perilous times.

1st, An old controversy lying over untaken up. They that are in debt, are always in danger. The Jews were a bloody generation, from generation to generation they were murderers of their prophets; that was an old debt on the head of the generation in our Saviour's time; Matth. xxiii. 31, and made their time a perilous time, for it was like a train lying within their bowels, which at last came to blow them up, ver. 35. So good Josiah's days were perilous times, by reason of an old controversy laid in the days of Manasseh his grandfather; 2 Kings xxiii. 26.

Our times are so, by reason of the iniquity of the late times, which is like that of Baal-peor, that brought "a plague on the congregation of the Lord: Josh. xxii. 17. The avowed breach of covenants made with God for reformation; the blood of the Lord's people shed in fields and scaffolds, for adhering to the oath of God; the sinning, confining, imprisoning, banishing of them, and other barbarous usage of them, whereby for many years these nations carried on a war with heaven; these, I say, are an old debt lying on the head of Scotland, England, and Ireland, for which God will pursue them, and pursue so as it will appear to be both for principle and interest during the time it has lain over. These things are forgotten, or laughed at now as what we have no concern in; a stone is rolled to the mouth of that sepulchre. But God will readily arise, if the stone were sealed, and they forgot quite and clean; 1 Thess. v. 3, "For when they shall say, Peace and safety then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; they shall not escape."

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2dly, Error or corruption of principles spreading. This was foretold to happen in the latter days; 1 Tim. iv. 1, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." Then the fountains men drink at, are poisoned; the faith once delivered to the saints, is exchanged for strong delusions, to believe lies; and many are in hazard of following their pernicious ways.

There are three dangerous engines of this kind that the gates of hell are directing this day against the foundation of the church built on the rock.

1. LEGALISM; An attempt against the grace of Christ, bringing in a scheme of religion that has no relation to Jesus Christ and bis Spirit, putting virtue or a virtuous life in the room of Christ's

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righteousness for acceptance with God, and the exerting of our natural powers in room of the influences of his Spirit. By which means the corruption of nature, and the necessity of regeneration, are buried in deep silence; and living by faith, attending the Spirit's influences, and communion with God, are branded as enthusiasm ; and desertion is accounted the product of a crazy imagination. Thus a refined Heathenism is palmed on us for Christianity.

2. ARIANISM; An attempt against the person of Christ, bringing in a Christ that is not of the Father's equal, not the most high God, independent, and self-existent; but an inferior god, an arbitrary, dependent being; thus striking at the foundation of our salvation, taking away the infinite dignity of his person, which gives the sufficient value to his sacrifice. And it is to be feared, that when Christ ariseth to vindicate his own glory, it will be found, that the Church of Scotland has not given sufficient testimony of their indignation against this blasphemy.

3. DEISM; An attempt against all revealed religion, casting off the whole gospel and Bible by the lump, with the whole way of salvation by Jesus Christ; leaving us nothing, but that there is a God, and that this God is to be served as our reason directs. Such a stroke was not given against Christianity in the time of Prelacy, no, not in the times of Popery. Scotland may, and shall say, Alas! for the union with England; we were going to ruin before, but we have run to ruin since that fatal time, as to our most valuable con

cerns.

3dly, Immoralities abounding. That this is the case in the last days, we may consult the text and context, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their ownselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." The opening of the sluice of impiety and wickedness, and the spreading and prevailing of scandalous practices, make perilous times.

If these make perilous times, ours are very perilous. I doubt if ever contempt of God, his Gospel, and all that is sacred, was ever at a greater height. The first table and second table are trampled on with a witness, so that we may say, Hos. iv. 1-3, "Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel, for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and

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