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the complete revelation of Antichrist took place ünder the third woe-trumpet.
At the revival of letters in Europe, the first discovery, that was made, was that of the multifarious absurdities maintained by the Church of Rome. These had long been held up to the world as the essentials of Christianity; and every impugner
of them had been treated as a heretic. The consequence was, that the mummeries of Popery were charged upon the Gospel : and, because they were evidently ridiculous superstitions, it was thought to be ridiculous superstition likewise. Hence arose scepticism; which the subtle enemy of mankind soon matured into infidelity, and even into atheism.
The prophecy teaches us, that, when the dragon quitted heaven, he retired to the earth and the sea : and history testifies, that it was not long, ere the fruits of his labours were abundantly evident in France, Germany, and Italy. “ It is certain,” says Mosheim, “ that in the sixteenth century there lay “ concealed in different parts of Europe several
persons, who entertained a virulent enmity
against religion in general, and in a more espe* cial manner against the religion of the Gospel; " and who, both in their writings and in their
private conversation, sowed the seeds of impiety " and error, and instilled their odious principles s into weak and credulous minds. It is even re
ported, that in certain provinces of France and Italy, schools were erected, whence these im18
pious doctrines issued *.” These continental infidels may be considered as the real fathers of our English free-thinkers. Accordingly “ the histories " of those times bear witness, that our English
youth, who travelled even so early as the reign “ of James the First, returned too often with the “ seeds of vice and infidelity, which they gathered “ with the knowledge and the manners of more
polished countries: and the court of Charles the “ Second displays, in a very striking manner, the
principles and habits, which the King and his “ Nobles had learned upon the continent. The
general detestation of the hypocrisy and fana“ ticism of the Puritans tended to heighten their 6s irreligion, and encouraged them to publish their “ opinions: but the kingdom at large was not in“ fected by them; and the following reigns exhibit “ in every rank of people an attachment to reli
gion, and a zeal in its cause, which the annals of no other nation can furnisht."
* It is probable, that from some one of these secret schools proceeded the famous pamphlet of The Three Impostors, meaning Moses, Christ, and Mohammed: if indeed there ever were such a pamphlet. Infidelity prevailed even among the Popes theniselves; as if, disgusted with the absurdities of the very superstition which was so profitable to them, they had sought refuge in the bosom of atheism. The blasphemy of Leo the tenth is well known. This fable of Jesus Christ,” said he to Cardinal Bembo, “ hath done us good service." According to the Romanists, every Pope is infallible: what sentiments will they entertain of Leo? + Hist. the Inter. Vol. ii. p. 135. M 3
For a considerable length of time however, in. fidelity was confined to the higher and the literary orders; the hunble and unambitious Christian was happily placed without the sphere of its influ
The project of the wily serpent was as yet in its infancy,: and little did those nobles, who encouraged it, imagine, that they were unwarily helping to construct an engine destined for their own destruction. But, as the period of the third woe-trumpet approached, Satan took at once both a wider and more systematic range. Infidelity was diffused in a manner unknown in any former age. No class of society was exempt from its poison. Publications, adapted to the comprehension of the lower orders, were zealously distributed throughout every country in Europe by the secret clubs of the illuminated: and, as a mind unused to argument can readily see an objection, without being able accurately to follow the train of reasoning which pervades the confutation of it, a captious doubt, once injected into the head of a poor and illiterate man, can scarcely ever be removed even by the clearest demonstration of the evidences of Christianity*. Impudent assertion
* A learned and much revered friend of mine (the Rev. R. Hudson, A. M. head-master of the Grammar School at Hipperholme), some time since put into my hands a small tract, which was industriously circulated in his neighbourhood. It was replete with a variety of quibbling questions, which the merest sciolist in theology would find little difficulty in answer
now occupied the place of proof: and a conviction of false representation was little regarded by those, whose object was to disseminate error, and who had regularly calculated that an atheistical publication would be read by many that would probably never see the answer to it. Formerly infidelity was conveyed in the shape of a professed treatise ; and they, who chose to peruse it, were at least aware of what they might expect. Hence a careful Christian parent knew how to secure his inexperienced offspring from the effects of its poison. But now, there is scarcely a book which he dares to trust in the hands of his children, without first thoroughly examining it himself: and, even after
ing, but which were perfectly well adapted to puzzle the intellect of a plain unsuspecting labourer. In order to avoid the necessity of annexing the printer's name to a publication, it was ingeniously ante-dated. It was by small tracts of this "sort,” says the present worthy Dishop of London, " dissemi“nated among the lower orders in every part of France, that “the great body of the people there was prepared for that “ most astonishing event (which, without such preparation, “ could never have been so suddenly and so generally brought “ about), the public renunciatio:1 of the Christian Faith. In “ order to produce the very same effects here, and to pave “ the way for a general apostasy from the Gospel, by conta“ minating the principles and shaking the faith of the inferior " classes of the people, the same arts have been employed, the “ same breviates of infidelity have, to my knowledge, been “ published and dispersed with great activity, and at a consi“derable expence, among the middling and lower classes of “ men in this kingdom.” Charge, 1794.
all his precautions, his son may accidentally take up a treatise on botany or geology, and rise from the perusał of it, if not an infidel, yet a sceptic. In short, the lurking poison of unbelief has of late years been “ served up in every shape, that is
likely to allure, surprise, or beguile, the ima“ gination ; in a fable, a tale, a novel, a poem ; “ in interspersed and broken hints; remote and oblique surmises ; in books of travels, of philo
sophy, of natural history; in a word, in any “ form rather than that of a professed and regular disquisition *
The sure word of prophecy has taught us where to look for the real origin of these infernal productions. “ Woe to the inhabiters of the earth « and of the sea ! for the devil is come down unto
you, having great wrath, because he knoweth ç that he hath but a short time." It has done
It has explicitly described to us the character of those abandoned men, those hardened scoffers, whom Satan was about to employ as his wretched tools in the last days t. The existence. of such men we have witnessed with our own eyes: but, till lately, we were not aware of their existence in any other than their mere individual capacity. We have at present however upon recor:1 the confession of an arch-atheist, that there has long been in Europe, particularly in papal Europe,
* Paley's Moral. Philosophy. + See the prophecies relative to the last timcs collected togethes in the Third Chapter of this Work,