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more in the church, and prevailed like a flood, which threat. ened to overflow all, and entirely to carry away the church, insomuch that before that age was out, that is, before the fourth century after Christ was finished, the greater part of the Christian church were become Arians. There were some emperors, the successors of Constantine, who were Arians ; so that the Arians being the prevailing party, and having the civil authority on their side, did raise a great per: secution against the true church of Christ ; so that this here. sy might well be compared to a flood out of the mouth of the serpent, which threatened to overthrow all, and quite carry away the woman.
The Pelagian heresy arose in the beginning of the next century. It began by one Pelagius, who was born in Britain : His British name was Morgan. He denied original sin, and the influence of the Spirit of God in conversion, and held the power of free will, and many other things of like tendency ; and this heresy did for a while greatly infest the church. Pelagius's principal antagonist, who wrote in defence of the orthodox faith, was St. Augustin.
(2) The other kind of opposition, which Satan made against the church, was in his endeavors to restore Paganism. And his first attempt to restore it in the Roman empire, was by Julian the apostate. Julian was nephew to Constantine the Great. When Constantine died he left his empire to his three sons, and when they were dead, Julian the apostate reigned in their stead. He had been a professed Christian ; but he
; fell from Christianity, and turned Pagan; and therefore is called the apostate. When he came to the throne, he used his utmost endeavors to overthrow the Christian church, and set up Paganism again in the empire. He put down the Christian magistrates, and set up Heathens in their room : He rebuilt the Heathen temples, and set up the Heathen worship in the empire, and became a most notorious persecutor of the Christians, and, as is thought, against his own light : He used to call Christ, by way of reproach, the Galilean. He was killed with a lance in his wars with the Persians. When he saw that he was mortally wounded, he took a handful of his
blood, and threw it up towards heaven, crying out, Thou hast overcome, O Galilean. And he is commonly thought by divines to have committed the unpardonable sin.
Another way that Satan attempted to restore Paganism in the Roman empire, was by the invasions and conquests of Heathen nations. For in this space of time that we are upon, the Goths and Vandals, and other Heathen barbarous nations, that dwelt in the north of the Roman empire, invaded the empire, and obtained great conquests, and even overran the empire, and in the fifth century took the city of Rome, and finally subdued and conquered, and took possession of the Western empire, as it was called, or the western half of the empire, and divided it amongst them ; divided it into ten kingdoms, with which began the ten horns of the beast; for we are told that the ten horns are ten kings, who should rise in the latter part of the Roman empire : These are also represented by the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar's image. The invasion and conquests of these Heathen nations are supposed to be foretold in the 8th chapter of Revelation, in what came to pass under the sounding of the four first trumpets. Now these nations, who now took possession of the Western empire, were Heathens ; so that by their means Heathenism was again for a while restored, after it had been rooted out.
So much for the opposition of Satan against the success of the gospel during this space before the rise of Antichrist. I proceed,
2. To show what success there was of the gospel in this space, notwithstanding this opposition.
(1) I would observe that the opposition of Satan in those things was baffled. Though the dragon cast out of his mouth such a food after the woman to carry her away, yet he could not obtain his design ; but the earth helped the woman,
and opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. These heresies which for a while so much prevailed, yet after a while dwindled away, and orthodoxy was again restored : And his attempt by Julian was baffled at his death.
(2) The gospel, during this space of time, was further propagated amongst many barbarous Heathen nations in the
confines of the Roman empire. In the time of Constantinę there was a considerable propagation of the gospel in the East Indies, chiefly by the ministry of one Frumentius.... Great numbers of the Iberians, an Heathen people, were converted to Christianity by a Christian woman of eminent piety, whom they had taken captive. And some account is given of several other barbarous nations who were not within the Roman empire, that great numbers of them were brought to receive the gospel by the teaching and example of captives whom they had taken in war. And after this, about the year of Christ, 372, the gospel was propagated among the barbarous people that dwelt in Arabia ; as it was also among some of the northern nations ; particularly a prince of the country of the Goths about this time became Christian, and a great number of his people with him. Towards the latter end of this century, the gospel was also further propagated among the Persians, and also the Scythians, a barbarous people, that the apostle mentions in Col. iii. 11. « Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free.”
And after this, about the year 430, there was a remarkable conversion of a Heathen people, called the Burgundians, to the Christian faith. About the same time, in this
the gospel began to be propagated in Ireland ; and the Irish, who till now had been Heathen, began to receive the Christian faith. About the same time it was further propagated among some barbarous people in Scotland, and also in some other places. In the next century to this, one Zathus, a Heathen king, who ruled over a people called the Colchians, was brought to renounce his Heathenism, and to embrace the Christian religion. Several other barbarous nations are recorded to have renounced Heathenism and embraced Christianity about this time, that I cannot stand to mention.
Thus I have briefly considered the principal events of providence which concern the success of the gospel of Christ, from Constantine to the rise of Antichrist.
2dly. I come now to the second part of the time from Constantine to the destruction of Antichrist, viz. that which reaches from the rise of Antichrist to the reformation by Luther and others. And this is the darkest and most dismal day that ever the Christian church saw, and probably the darkest that ever it will see. The time of the church's afflïction and persecution, as was observed Before, is from Christ's resurrection till the destruction of Antichrist, excepting that the day is, as it were, shortened dy sonre intermissions and times of respïte, which God gives for the elect's sake. But this time, from the rise of Antichrist till the Reformation, was a space wherein the Christian church was in its greatest depth of depression, and in its darkest time of all. The true church in this space was for many hundred years in a state of great obscurity, like the woman in the wilderness : Indeed she was almost hid from sight and observation. In speaking of the events of this space of time, I would, 1. Take notice of the great machinations and works of the devil against the kingdom of Christ during this time; 2. Show how the church of Christ was upheld during this time.
1. I would take notice of the great works of the devil against the kingdom of Christ during this time. Satan had done great things against the Christian church before, but had Been Bafiled once and again. Michael and his angels had obtained a glorious victory. How terrible was his opposition during the continuance of the Heathen empire ; and how glorious was Christ's victory and triumph over him in the time of Constantine ! It pleased God now to prepare the way for a yet more glorious victory over him, to suffer him to renew his strength, and to do the utmost that his
power subtilty can help him to ; and therefore he suffers him to have a long time to lay his schemes, and to establish his interest, and make his matters strong ; and suffers him to carry his designs a great length indeed, almost to the swallowing up of his church ; and to exercise a high, and proud, and almost uncontroled dominion, in the world, a long time before Christ finally conquers, and subdues, and utterly ruins his visible kingdom on earth, as he will do in the time of the destruction of Antichrist : Thus gloriously triumphing over him after he has done the utmost that his power and subtilty can
extend te, and showing that he is above him, after he has dealt most proudly, and lifted himself highest of all.
"The two great works of the devil which he in this space of time wrought against the kingdom of Christ, are his creating his Antichristian and Mahometan kingdoms, which have been, and still are, two kingdoms of great extent and strength, both together swallowing up the ancient Roman empire ; the kingdom of Antichrist swallowing up the Western empire, and Satan's Mahometan kingdom the Eastern empire. As the scriptures in the book of the Revelation represent it, it is in the destruction of these that the glorious victory of Christ, at the introduction of the glorious times of the church will mainly consist. And here let us briefly observe how Satan erects and maintains these two great kingdoms of his in opposition to the kingdom of Christ.
(1) With respect to the kingdom of Antichrist. This seems to be the masterpiece of all the contrivances of the devil against the kingdom of Christ, and is evidently so spoken of in scripture, and therefore Antichrist is the man of sin, or that man of sin, 2. Thess. ii. 3. He is so called emphatically, as though he were so eminently. So he is called Antichrist, which signifies the opponent or adversary of Christ. Not that he is the only opponent of Christ ; there were many others besides him. The Apostle John observes, that in his days there were many Antichrists ; but yet this is called the Antichrist, as though there were none but he, because he was so eminently, and above all others. So this contrivance of the devil, is called the mystery of iniquity, 2. Thess. ii. 7. And we find no enemy of Christ one half so much spoken of in the prophecies of Revelation as this ; and the destruction of no enemy is spoken of as so glorious and happy for the church. The craft and subtilty of the devil, above all, appears in this work of his ; as might be shown, were it not that it would consume too much time.
This is a contrivance of the devil to turn the ministry of the Christian church into a ministry of the devil, and to turn these angels of the churches into fallen angels, and so into devils. And in the tyranny and superstition, and idolatry, and