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Prophetic Expositions, vol. 1

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    CHAPTER V. THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES

    One of the marks of hypocrisy in the Jews of our Lord’s day, was, that in the midst of his numerous and astonishing miracles, performed in their midst and before their eyes, they came to him and asked of him a sign;—“Master, we would see a sign from thee.” “O ye hypocrites,” said the Saviour, “ye can discern the face of the sky; how is it that ye cannot discern the signs of this time?” How much like the present generation! In the midst of a flood of light, and some of the most astonishing wonders of the world, how perfectly blind are men to the fact that just these signs were foretold to precede the great and terrible day of the Lord! But thanks be to God, there are some left who have faith enough in God’s word to believe that when he promises signs of the second advent of the Saviour, he will be as faithful to fulfil them as he was in the case of his first advent. There are many, however, and some of them profess themselves believers in God’s word too, yea, and teachers of that word, who are ready to scoff at us when we point at the very things in real life, or as matters of authentic history, and profess to believe them a fulfilment of God’s word. But we are not to be scoffed out of our faith; a more powerful instrument than ridicule will be requisite to drive us from it.PREX1 145.1

    Some of the predicted signs I design to notice, and inquire if they have been fulfilled.PREX1 146.1

    1. “There shall be scoffers in the last times.” 2 Peter 3:2. This is one of the first signs laid down by Peter. “Knowing this first, that there shall come,” etc. To guard the church against them he wrote both his epistles. “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you, in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance, that ye may be mindful of the words spoken before by the holy prophets; and the commandments of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.” He foresaw what an effort would be made to cast the prophecies into the shade, and persuade the people and the church that the prophets gave no light on the second advent; that Daniel only predicted the overthrow of Antiochus, and, in the ninth chapter, came down to the destruction of Jerusalem; the greater prophets foretold the Babylonish captivity and return, the birth and death of Christ, together with the glory of the gospel dispensation, and occasionally alluded to some local circumstance of their own day. And so also of the minor prophets. Do we hear and witness any such, effort to throw the doctrine of Christ’s coming, into the shade in our own day—“Saying, where is the promise of his coming?” Are there any who do this as a sect of modern origin, who are notorious for gathering in their ranks the profligate of every description, and who comfort them with the assurance that the bad effects of their crimes will only be realized in this life; thus inducing them still to walk after their own lusts, and scoff at the judgment day? Mr. Ballou, the father of modern Universalism, knows this sect is not half a century old. But I will not enlarge on this point. The same thing is predicted by Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:3: “When they shall say peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” They are now saying it most emphatically. Universalists do it openly and unequivocally. Many evangelical (professedly so) ministers and Christians, like the Jews of old, are ready to say, “his blood be on us;” or, we take the responsibility to say he will not come in 1843, nor for a thousand years at least. This doctrine of a thousand years’ peace and universal holiness before the coming of the Lord, is itself a most effectual anodyne to a sleeping church and perishing world.PREX1 146.2

    2. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14.PREX1 147.1

    This sign is fulfilled. There is no known nation which has never, to a greater or less extent, had the gospel preached to them. Rev. J. O. Choules, author of a voluminous work, a History of Missions, from the Apostolic age down to the present day, being asked, last May, (1842,) if he knew of any nation which never had received the gospel, replied that he did not; but he thought the promise implied something more than its being barely preached in each nation.PREX1 147.2

    The same question was proposed to Rev. Mr. James, general financial agent of the American Bible Society, and nearly the same answer was elicited. Dr. Nathan Bangs, for many years at the head of the Methodist missionary operations, was asked the question last July, and after reflecting some time, replied, that he believed there was a tribe, somewhere upon the north-west coast of North America, to whom it had never been preached. But, in answer to this, we have only to say, that it is in no way probable, if there was one solitary tribe in that country when the Doctor had his information, that, with the gospel in all the surrounding tribes, and the spirit of revival which has prevailed in that quarter for some years past, and the rapid spread of the gospel among the tribes, the tribe remains now without it. It is alleged by some, that there is no evidence that the negro tribes in the interior of Africa have ever heard the gospel. To this it is replied, it is a well authenticated fact, that the gospel was planted in Africa, and flourished there, from the apostolic age, for many centuries; and that even after the church in Europe and Asia went into the wilderness. It is true, also, that it extended far up into the interior of Africa, in Ethiopia. Modern missions have surrounded Africa, and their labors have reached the interior. The Wesleyans have sustained missionaries in the south and east of Africa, and have successfully prosecuted their work for many years. Every successive year has extended their operations into the interior. Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregational, and Episcopal missions have all been established on the western coast. The single revival at Heddington, it was reported, some two years ago, had extended for five hundred miles up into the interior, and induced whole tribes of natives to burn their gods, and seek for Christian instruction, and the work was still rapidly spreading, through the influence of native converts. We know that God has, in a most wonderful manner, poured out his Spirit on the heathen world for years past, and awakened and prepared their minds to receive the gospel; and when it has been sent to them they have embraced it with greediness. The probability is, that the revivals at different points on the coast of Africa have reached every tribe on the continent ere this day. Asia has had the gospel, from Tartary to Hindostan, and from Palestine to China. So far as the islands are known, all of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean islands have had the gospel of Christ preached to them. With these facts before us, and the concession of such men as Mr. Choules, Dr. Bangs, and Mr. Janes, and many others of a like character, that they know of no nation which never had it,-and either of them would gladly show that such existed if they could,-are we not fully authorized in believing that every nation has heard the word of life; or, at least, that it comes so near to it, that, with the facilities for spreading it at present in operation, and the spirit of revival which prevails at present, they will have it within the next year?PREX1 147.3

    But when it is preached in all the world, for a witness to all nations, “THEN SHALL THE END COME.” There is no such thing as a millennium after it is preached in all the world. Why cannot the Doctors see this? That end, then, must be just upon us.PREX1 149.1

    3. The signs foretold in Luke, twenty-first chapter. This chapter is parallel to the 24th of Matthew; and as the events appear more consecutive and distinct, I shall follow this account, and examine it, rather than that of Matthew.PREX1 149.2

    Luke 21:6, 7: “As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?”PREX1 150.1

    In answer to these questions, Christ proceeded to tell them (from verses eight to twenty-four) what signs there would be which should precede the destruction of Jerusalem. The language is so plain that it cannot well be misunderstood. “Let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains.” “For there shall be distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” All these predicted events have most certainly come on the Jews and Jerusalem. That devoted city is yet trodden down of the Gentiles; therefore, the prophecy has not yet expired. This, then, is my answer to those who would contend that the prophecy ended with the destruction of Jerusalem; it is not so, for it is yet in a course of fulfilment. In order to show that the prophecy ended then, it must be proved that Jerusalem ceased then to be trodden down of the Gentiles.PREX1 150.2

    Times of the Gentiles,” is the period of their triumph over the church, holding it in bondage. It is shadowed forth by the metalic image of Daniel,PREX1 150.3

    second chapter, beginning with the Chaldeans, and ending with the Romans, in the entire destruction of the Gentile governments of the earth and the setting up of the kingdom of God to fill the whole earth. Their times end with the 2300 days. Then, in verse 25, and onward, follows a prediction of the signs that should indicate the kingdom of God at hand, with the same certainty that the budding of the fig-tree indicates approaching summer.PREX1 151.1

    Verse 25. “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon.” What these signs are, we learn from other parts of the Bible. Matthew, in referring to the same signs, says, “the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.” Joel 2:31, that “the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall be turned to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.”PREX1 151.2

    Has the sun been darkened in these days, as predicted by Joel and the Saviour? It has; and that within the memory of many now living. I refer to the dark day of A. D. 1780, May 19th. That was a day of supernatural darkness. It was not an eclipse of the sun, for the moon was nearly at the full. It was not owing to a thickness in the atmosphere, for the stars were seen. The darkness began about 9 o’clock, A. M., and continued through the day, and also into, if not through the night. Such was the darkness, that work was suspended in the field and shop, beasts and fowls retired to their rest, and houses were illuminated at dinner time. Such a day of darkness has never been known, so far as I can learn from history, (and I have searched for it most diligently,) since the crucifixion of our Saviour. There have been several such events since, in different countries. If any can produce evidence of such an appearance before 1780, I will thank them most heartily for the information, and make a correction of this statement.PREX1 151.3

    And in the moon.” At the time of the dark day, May 19, 1780, there was a full moon, or nearly so, [the moon fulled the 18th,] yet the night was as dark as “Egyptian darkness.” “The moon (did) not give her light.”PREX1 152.1

    The following extract from Gage’s History of the town of Rowley, Mass., on “the dark day” of May, 1780, will set this point in a clear light.PREX1 152.2

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