In the books both of Daniel and the Revelation distinct reference is made to that abnormal national experience known as "The French Revolution." [See Dan. 11:36-39; Rev. 11:7-10.] The time when the principles of irreligion and infidelity were given full opportunity to bud and blossom and bear fruit, that all the world might judge of their nature; when men were left to show to what deeds of darkness the carnal heart would lead, unrestrained by any principles of righteousness and truth, was most appropriately noted in prophecy. And the descriptions given of the character of the last days by the same pen of inspiration, are such as to show that the masses will then fall, to a large extent, if not wholly, under the same principles of evil. While such is the representation of prophecy, it is a serious question in many minds whether the preliminary stages of this condition of things are not already appearing before our eyes, and if we may not now be on the threshold of one of those eras wherein "history repeats itself" in its worst forms. p. 729, Para. 3.
Those who entertain the sentiments concerning the nature of our times set forth in some portions of this work, are often charged with being pessimists, alarmists, and looking too much on the dark side of the picture. To the charge of being alarmists in the bad sense of that term, we do not plead guilty. While there may be such a thing as imagining evils which do not exist, and anticipating trouble which never comes, there is, on the other hand, such a thing as crying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace, and shutting our eyes to real danger till it is too late to guard against it, and we find ourselves involved in irretrievable calamity and loss. The wisest of men has said, "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished." Prov. 22:3. Noah was not an alarmist when he warned the world of the approaching catastrophe of the flood; nor Lot, when he warned the Sodomites that an all- devastating storm of fire was hanging over their doomed city; nor our Lord, when he foretold the utter destruction of Jerusalem, and gave his people directions how to escape it. Let us not be diverted from the real situation by the cry of "alarmist," nor think that there can be no danger because all do not see it; for St. Paul has warned us that "when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them." 1 Thess. 5:3. p. 729, Para. 4.
But we need offer no apology for ourselves in this particular; for the strongest utterances we put on record are simply those we find in the secular press of the day. Even so cautious a paper as the Chicago Evening Journal, in its issue of Aug. 26, 1874, under the heading "The Reign of Crime," drew the following picture of the times, which no one can say have been growing better since that time:-- p. 730, Para. 1.
"If Mr. Beecher used to be rather soft on the doctrine of 'total depravity,' we suspect he may have got more light on this point by this time. But Brooklyn does not by any means monopolize the illustrative evidence of it. Crimes of all sorts and sizes seem just now to be 'breaking out,' like the measles, all over the body social. The newspapers, if they give the news at all, have to be darkened with the wretched records of misdoings. We confess that the dailies at the present time are not so cheerful reading as might be. Suicides, murder, and the whole catalogue of offenses against God and man, are startlingly prevalent. Is it symptomatic of some great social disease, the seeds of which have long been growing, but long hidden? Is there some malign moral miasma in the air, some taint in the blood, some great, though subtle, popular error that has been silently conceiving sin, and is at last bringing forth iniquity? Or is it only a kind of spiritual contagion, or epidemic, like the epizootic, for instance, among animals, that has somehow got started, and is sweeping across the continent? p. 730, Para. 2.
"Such questions are full of significance, even if not easily answered. The philosophy of epidemical influences in society is better understood than it was a generation ago; but we suspect the subject is far from being cleared up yet. We need more light both as to the incipient causes and the concomitant conditions which allow such alarming potency to causes that seemed to be latent, until, all at once, they break forth, as if thousands had suddenly taken to the habit of carrying loose powder and matches in the same pocket. 'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.' Is it, then, that somehow communities get to thinking of the same ill things, and the bad thought becomes a tempting suggestion, and forthwith begins to work in the heart like a spark of an old-fashioned tinder-box? If so, one scarcely dares to think of the frightful consequences that may come of this Brooklyn scandal-sowing throughout the land." p. 730, Para. 3.
While this extract speaks of our own land, there is testimony to show that an equally alarming state of things prevails in Europe. As a representative statement upon this point, we quote from the distinguished and devoted J. H. Merle D'Aubigne, author of the History of the Reformation, who, just previous to his death, prepared a paper for the Evangelical Alliance, which was read at a meeting of that association. All thoughtful persons will consider his words most solemn, and his statements as startling as they are true:-- p. 730, Para. 4.
"If the meeting for which you are assembled is an important one, the period at which it is held is equally so, not only on account of the great things which God is accomplishing in the world, but also by reason of the great evils which the spirit of darkness is spreading throughout Christendom. The despotic and arrogant pretensions of Rome have reached in our days their highest pitch, and we are consequently more than ever called upon to contend against that power which dares to usurp the divine attributes. But that is not all. While superstition has increased, unbelief has done so still more. Until now, the eighteenth century -- the age of Voltaire -- was regarded as the epoch of most decided infidelity; but how far does the present time surpass it in this respect! Voltaire himself protested against the philosophy which he called atheistic, and said, 'God is necessarily the Great, the Only, the Eternal Artificer of all nature' [Dialogues, XXV]. But the pretended philosophers of our day leave such ideas far behind, and regard them as antiquated superstitions. Materialism and atheism have, in many minds, taken the place of the true God. Science, which was Christian in the brightest intellects of former days, in those to whom we owe the greatest discoveries, has become atheistic among men who now talk the loudest. They imagine that by means of general laws which govern the physical world, they can do without Him from whom these laws proceeded. Some remains of animals found in ancient strata of our globe, make them reject the creation of which the Bible inaugurates the account in these solemn words: 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.' p. 730, Para. 5.
"Eminent literary men continually put forward in their writings what is called Positivism, rejecting everything that goes beyond the limit of the senses, and disdaining all that is supernatural. These evils, which had formerly only reached the upper ranks of society, have now spread to the working classes, and some among them may be heard to say, 'When man is dead, all is dead.' But there is a still sadder feature of our times. Unbelief has reached even the ministry of the word. Pastors belonging to Protestant churches in France, Switzerland, Germany, and other continental countries, not only reject the fundamental doctrines of the faith, but also deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and see in him nothing more than a man, who, according to many of them, was even subject to errors and faults. A synod of the Reformed Church in Holland has lately decreed that when a minister baptizes, he need not do it in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. A journal, when relating this fact, adds, 'Will they then baptize in the God abyss?' At an important assembly held lately in German Switzerland, at which were present many men of position both in the church and the state, the basis of the new religion was laid down. 'No doctrines,' was the watchword on that occasion. 'No new doctrines, whatever they may be, in place of the old; liberty alone,' which means liberty to overthrow everything. And too truly some of those ministers believe neither in a personal God nor in the immortality of the soul. For a portion of the European population there is no other gospel than that of Spinoza, and often much less even than that." p. 731, Para. 1.
Such words from such a source should cause the most thoughtless to pause and consider. Mark the expressions: The spirit of darkness spreading through Christendom, superstition and unbelief increasing, the present age far surpassing that of Voltaire in infidelity, atheism taking the place of God, science becoming atheistic, eminent literary men teaching Positivism; the masses becoming pervaded with these ideas, and even Protestant ministers denying the fundamental facts of the gospel, -- these are the prominent features of the times. p. 731, Para. 2.
Professor J. Cairus, D.D., of Berwick, England, draws the following picture of the present generation: "The advance, so rapid and wonderful, of science and art, and the progress of education and the diffusion of literature; the self-assertion, by long-oppressed nationalities, of their rights and liberties; the approximation to a commercial and political unity of the human race, -- all tend to foster the idea of man's inherent capacity, and to set afloat wild and chimerical schemes and hopes of moral regeneration, irrespective of Christianity. The dream of independent morality finds countenance. Theories of spiritual development, more exaggerated and fictitious by far than these of physical development, are accepted. The march of intelligence, or the revolutionary impulse, is to make all things new. Meanwhile, the sad and humbling aspects of the nineteenth century -- its hideous vices and crimes, its luxury, selfishness, and greed set over against pauperism, debasement, and discontent; its wars and international feuds, with ever-increasing conscriptions and standing armies -- are overlooked." p. 732, Para. 1.
Hon. Geo. H. Stuart, of Philadelphia, thus spoke before the Alliance: "The field is the world. It has in it 1,300,000,000 immortal souls, destined to meet us at the judgment bar of God. Of these 1,300,000,000 there are some 800,000,000 bowing down to stocks and stones, the workmanship of their own hands. Besides these 800,000,000 heathen, there are 110,000,000 Mohammedans and 240,000,000 of other false systems of religion, leaving only 100,000,000 nominal Protestants. It is not for us to say how many of these 100,000,000 are true disciples of our risen and exalted Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." p. 732, Para. 2.
Sad indeed is the view here presented; and is it not every year growing worse? Students of prophecy are sometimes looked upon as fanatics, because they believe that the second advent of Christ is soon to take place, when all the wicked will be destroyed and the righteous saved. But we ask the candid reader whether the man, who, in the face of all the facts above stated, believes in the speedy conversion of the whole world and the near approach of the millennium, may not more justly be regarded as a fanatic. While a few thousand pagans in heathen lands are receiving the gospel, millions in Christian lands are turning away from it and embracing false religions and atheism, and among these we find the educated, the scientific, the so-called higher classes taking the lead. But this need not surprise us; for Jesus himself said respecting the last days, "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8. p. 732, Para. 3.
From this general description, let us come to particulars. Every student of history understand that like causes produce like effects, and that indications which foretokened the occurrence of certain events in one age, will generally reappear when similar events are about to transpire in any other age. As in the natural world there must be the gathering of clouds and the accumulation of electricity before the storm, so in the moral and political world there must be the dissemination of principles, the formulation of ideas, and the rousing of passions, before the revolution. Causes which in the past have led to anarchy, rapine, license and a general disintegration of society, will, if permitted to operate, produce again the same results. The French Revolution of 1789-1800 stands fixed in history as the "Reign of Terror." Each succeeding faction which gained power during that awful era shed in torrents the blood of its enemies, until over 2,000,000 lives were sacrificed. All social order was destroyed. The marriage covenant was abrogated, and lust stalked abroad everywhere, licensed and unrestrained. Christ was declared an impostor, and his religion a fraud. The existence of God was denied, and the reading of his word forbidden. All this was the work of infidelity. Behold, therefore, in that terrible Revolution, the miniature of the world without the restraining influence of God's revelation. And is there danger that this frightful condition of things may be reproduced in our own day? Facts constrain us to answer in the affirmative; for the same causes are operating everywhere today which a hundred years ago were at work in France. The same names and principles may be heard and seen all about us. Let us first notice some of the more prominent elements which produced the French Revolution. p. 732, Para. 4.
1. Spiritualism. -- Says Samuel Smucker in his Memorable Scenes in French History, p. 116: "We find in the records of that period, materials and events which prove that then it was that the impostures of modern spiritual rappers and mediums were first practiced, in precisely the same way and for the same results as they are at the present day. . . . Count Cagliostro enabled Cardinal Rohan to sup with the deceased D'alembert, with the king of Prussia, and with Voltaire, all dead some years before. He convinced His Eminence that the worker of these wonders had himself been present with Christ at the marriage in Cana of Galilee. . . . In the triumphs of Cagliostro, of Misner, and of St. Germain, which at this period were at their greatest height, we behold another instance of the uprooting of the firm and stable foundations of society in an excessive desire for novelties, and a restless itching after things new, mysterious and wonderful." p. 733, Para. 1.
As a system of pretended communication with the dead, Spiritualism, is as old, at least, as the Mosaic dispensation, for it was strictly forbidden in his day; and it has at favorable epochs manifested itself among men; but its wonder-working phase is peculiar to modern times, and first manifested itself in this country, according to the prophecy of Revelation 13. Its principles and spirit found congenial soil in France in the Revolution. But if what then appeared contributed in any manner to produce the state of society which then existed, what must be its tendency today? p. 733, Para. 2.
2. Infidelity. -- Mr. Anderson, in The Annals of the English Bible, p. 494, says: "Never let it be forgotten that before the Revolution of 1792, the promoters of infidelity in France are stated to have raised among themselves, and spent, a sum equal to L900,000 in one year, -- nay, again and again, -- in purchasing, printing, and dispersing books to corrupt the minds of the people and prepare them for desperate measures." p. 733, Para. 3.
Dr. Dick, in his work on The Improvement of Society, p. 154, says: "The way for such a revolution was prepared by the writings of Voltaire, Mirabeau, Diderot, Helvetius, D'alembert, Condorcet, Rosseau, and others of the same stamp, in which they endeavored to disseminate principles subversive both of natural and revealed religion. Revelation was not only impugned, but entirely set aside. The Deity was banished from the universe, and an imaginary phantom, under the name of the Goddess of Reason, substituted in his place. The carved work of all religious beliefs and moral practice was boldly cut down by Carnot and Robespierre and their atheistical associates. Nature was investigated by pretended philosophers, only with the view to darken the mind, and prevent mankind from considering anything as real but what the hand could grasp or the corporeal eye perceive." p. 734, Para. 1.
The infidelity of today, in many respects, according to the quotation from D'Aubigne, leaves that of France at the time of the Revolution far behind. p. 734, Para. 2.
3. Socialism. -- Webster makes this word synonymous with "communism," which he defines as follows: "The reorganizing of society, or the doctrine that it should be reorganized, by regulating property, industry, and the sources of livelihood, and also the domestic relations and social morals of mankind; socialism, especially the doctrine of a community of property, or the negation of individual rights in property." p. 734, Para. 3.
These principles were carried into practice in France, and as the result the Revolution blossomed into all its horrid reality. The relations of the different classes of society were completely changed. The monarchy was overthrown, and an infidel republic established on its ruins. The king and queen were beheaded. p. 734, Para. 4.
Alison, Vol. IV, p. 151, says: "The confiscation of two thirds of the landed property in the kingdom, which arose from the decrees of the convention against the emigrants, clergy, and persons convicted at the revolutionary tribunals, . . . placed funds worth above L700,000,000 sterling at the disposal of the government." p. 734, Para. 5.
Titles of nobility were abolished. It was a conflict between the rich and the poor, between capital and labor. The motto of the Revolution was, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" -- blessed words, but, with the strangest inconsistency, wholly outraged and misapplied. The same principles are treated in the same way to- day, and are shouted as the watchword among the discontented masses and the labor organizations the world over. The principles of socialism, or communism, were probably never so widely diffused as at the present time. p. 734, Para. 6.
4. Free Love. -- When the existence of the true God was denied, as it was during the French Revolution, and in his place men set up a lewd women as the Goddess of Reason, and the object of their highest adoration, it was a natural consequence that the sacredness of the marriage relation should be wholly discarded. Marriage was therefore declared a civil contract, binding only during the pleasure of the contracting parties. Divorce became general, and the corruption of manners reached a height never before known in France. One half of the whole number of births in Paris were illegitimate. See Thier's French Revolution, Vol. II, p. 380. Free-lovism is an integral part of the spiritualistic movement of our day, not so openly advocated as formerly, but none the less cherished and practiced as a part of the boasted "freedom" to which the human race is attaining. p. 734, Para. 7.
5. The Commune. -- This word is derived from a small territorial district in France governed by an officer called a mayor. It has come to have a much more extensive application at the present time; but the origin of the word is not so important as the principles which it is taken to represent. Of these we have already had a definition from Webster, and seen a practical illustration in the French Revolution. Thier's French Revolution, Vol. III, p. 106, gives the whole number of persons guillotined during the reign of terror as 1,022,351, besides massacres of other kinds in other places, in some of which the population of whole towns perished. Dr. Dick, in his Improvement of Society, p. 154, says: "Such was the rapidity with which the work of destruction was carried on, that within the short space of ten years not less than three million human beings . . . are supposed to have perished in that country alone, chiefly through the influence of immoral principles, and the seductions of a false philosophy." p. 735, Para. 1.
In connection with this, as showing the tendency of the times, may be mentioned the "International," an association which, not long since, was prominent and created a good deal of apprehension. The object of its members was to overthrow those whom they esteemed their enemies, namely, kings and capitalists. Its platform was, briefly, the abolition of all class rule and privileges; political and social equality of both sexes; nationalization of land and instruments of production; reduction of hours of labor; education to be controlled by the state, and to be obligatory, gratuitous, and secular; religion to be ignored, a direct system of taxation based upon property, not upon industry; the abolition of all standing armies; and associative production instead of capitalist production. p. 735, Para. 2.
It will be seen at once that to put these principles into practice would be completely to change the present political and social relations of society. The different branches of this revolutionary body may now go by different names, as Nihilists in Russia, Communists in Germany, Anarchists and Monarchists in France, Fenians and Land-Leaguers in Ireland, the different secret labor organizations in this country, and Socialists everywhere. The principles involved are similar in all their divisions; the end sought, the same; and in the natural order of things, a great crisis in respect to these movements is inevitable. p. 735, Para. 3.
The impress of the Satanic hand is clearly seen in that the state of society sought for is exactly the opposite of that established by God in the garden of Eden. There God was supreme; Christ, by whom God made all things, was recognized and honored; God's law was the governing rule; a spirit of true worship, prompted by love, controlled man's mind; the marriage relation was sacred; and the Sabbath was honored as God's great memorial. In the French Revolution, God was dethroned, Christ crucified afresh, Christianity denounced, and all restraint broken off from the carnal heart, worship discarded, the rest-day abolished, the marriage relation annulled, and society rent into mournful fragments. Let Communism prevail, and such is the state of society we shall have again. p. 735, Para. 4.
The fruit of this agitation is appearing more and more in the strained relations between labor and capital, all the time growing greater, the multiplication of "orders" among the working men, and the combination of capital for self-protection, the great strikes and mobs of late years, necessitating in many countries even armed intervention. Suspicion and mistrust everywhere prevail; and "What are we coming to?" is the question that trembles on many a lip. Truly, as our Lord said it would be just before his coming, "men's hearts" are failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." Luke 21:26. p. 736, Para. 1.
Almost every scheme of the "Plan of the Ages," "Age-to-come," etc., makes use of a supposed prophetic period called the "Seven Times;" and the attempt is made to figure out a remarkable fulfilment by events in Jewish and Gentile history. All such speculators might as well spare their pains; for there is no such prophetic period in the Bible. p. 736, Para. 3.
The term is taken from Leviticus 26, where the Lord denounces judgments against the Jews, if they shall forsake him. After mentioning a long list of calamities down to verse 17, the Lord says: "And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins." Verse 18. Verses 19 and 20 enumerate the additional judgments, then it is added in verse 21: "And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me: I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins." More judgments are enumerated, and then in verses 23 and 24 the threatening is repeated: "And if ye will not be reformed by me these things, but will walk contrary unto me; then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins." In verse 28 it is repeated again. p. 736, Para. 4.
Thus the expression occurs four times, and each succeeding mention brings to view severer punishments, because the preceding ones were not heeded. Now, if "seven times" denotes a prophetic period (2520 years), then we would have four of them, amounting in all to 10,080 years, which would be rather a long time to keep a nation under chastisement. p. 736, Para. 5.
But we need borrow no trouble on this score; for the expression "seven times" does not denote a period of duration, but is simply an adverb expressing degree, and setting forth the severity of the judgments to be brought upon Israel. p. 736, Para. 6.
If it denoted a period of time, a noun and its adjective would be used, as in Dan. 4:16: "Let seven times pass over him." Here we have the noun [times] and adjective [seven]: thus, [shibah iddan]; but in the passages quoted above from Leviticus 26, the words "seven times" are simply the adverb [sheba], which means "sevenfold." The Septuagint makes the same distinction, using in Dan. 4:16, etc., but in Leviticus simply the adverb. p. 737, Para. 1.
The expression in Dan. 4:16 is not prophetic, for it is used in plain, literal narration. (See verse 25.) p. 737, Para. 2.
The ten kingdoms which arose out of the old Roman empire, are symbolized by the ten horns on the fourth beast of Daniel 7. All agree on this point; but there has not been entire unanimity among expositors as to the names of the kingdoms which constituted these divisions. Some name the Huns as one of these divisions, others put the Alemanni in place of the Huns. That the reader may see the general trend of what has been written on this subject, the following facts are presented:-- p. 737, Para. 4.
Machiavelli, the historian of Florence, writing simply as a historian, names the Huns as one of the nations principally concerned in the breaking up of the Roman empire. Among those who have written on this point with reference to the prophecy, may be mentioned, Berengaud, in the ninth century; Mede, 1586- 1638; Bossuet, 1627-1704; Lloyd, 1627-1717; Sir Isaac Newton, 1642-1727; Bishop Newton, 1704-1782; Hales, ---1821: Faber, 1773-1854. p. 737, Para. 5.
Of these nine authorities, eight take the position that the Huns were one of the ten kingdoms; of these eight, two, Bossuet and Bishop Newton, followed by Dr. Clarke, have both the Huns and the Alemanni; only one, Mede, omits the Huns and takes the Alemanni. Thus eight favor the view that the Huns were represented by one of the horns; two, while not rejecting the Huns, consider the Alemanni one of the horns; one rejects the Huns and takes the Alemanni. Scott and Barnes, in their commentaries, and Oswald, in his Kingdom That Shall Not Be Moved, name the Huns. p. 737, Para. 6.
(For portraits, see page 138.)
John de Wycliffe, born about 1324, styled the "Morning Star of the Reformation," was an English divine, whose piety and talents procured for him one of the highest ecclesiastical positions of honor. Having openly preached against the corruptions of the Roman Church, he was displaced, the pope issuing several bulls against him for heresy. Accordingly, he was examined by an assembly, but made so able a defense that it ended without determination. Continuing to denounce the papal corruptions, ordinances, and power, he was again summoned before a synod, but was released by order of the king's mother. It is remarkable that although he continued his vehement attacks upon vital points of Romish doctrine, he escaped the fate of others similarly accused; but over forty years after his death, which occurred in 1384, his bones were exhumed, burned, and cast into the River Swift, which bore them through the Severn to the sea, his very dust becoming emblematic of his doctrine, now diffused the world over. His most important work was the first English version of the Bible. p. 738, Para. 3.
John Huss, the celebrated reformer, was a native of Bohemia, born in 1370, and educated at the university at Prague, where he received the degree of master of arts, and became rector of the University and confessor to the Queen. Obtaining some of the writings of Wycliffe, he saw the errors and corruption of the Romish Church, which he freely exposed, though persecuted by several popes. By his teaching, a reformation began in the University, to check which the archbishop issued two decrees; but the new doctrine spreading still more, he was finally brought before a council, thrown into prison, and after some months' confinement, sentenced to be burned. Though urged at the stake to recant, he firmly refused, and until stifled with smoke, continued to pray and sing with a clear voice. He was burned in 1415, and his ashes, and even the soil on which they lay, were carefully removed and thrown into the Rhine. p. 738, Para. 4.
Jerome of Prague, who derived his surname from the town where he was born somewhere between 1360 and 1370, completed his studies at the university of the same name, after which he traveled over the greater part of Europe. At Paris he received the degree of master of arts, and at Oxford he became acquainted with the writings of Wycliffe, translating many of them into his own language. On his return to Prague, he openly professed Wycliffe's doctrines, and assisted Huss in the work of the Reformation. Upon the arrest of the latter, he also expressed his willingness to appear before the council in defense of his faith, and desired a safe-conduct of the emperor. This was not granted, but on his way home he was seized, carried to Constance, and after the martyrdom of Huss, threatened with like torments. In a moment of weakness, he abjured the faith; but on being released, bemoaned his sin, and publicly renounced his recantation, for which he was consigned to the flames, 1416. p. 738, Para. 5.
William Tyndale, an eminent English divine, was born about 1484. He received an ample education at Cambridge and Oxford, and took holy orders. Embracing the doctrines of the Reformation, he excited so much enmity among Romanists by his zeal and ability in expounding them, that he was compelled to seek refuge in Germany. Believing that the Scriptures should be read by the masses in the vernacular, he produced a complete version of the New Testament in English, which, though ordered to be suppressed, was in such demand that six editions were published. This version was also the model and basis of that of King James, and is but little more obsolete. He also translated the Pentateuch. For these and other reformatory writings, he was arrested at Antwerp at the instigation of the English government, and after eighteen months' imprisonment, was burned, first being strangled by the hangman. 1536. p. 739, Para. 1.
Thomas Cranmer, the first Protestant archbishop of Canterbury, was born in 1489. Although saintly in his profession as a divine, he was somewhat politic as a statesman, and thus was well suited to unite the religious and worldly enemies of popery. He was also a servile adherent of Henry VIII. After the death of the latter, he joined the upholders of Lady Jane Grey, who was also a Protestant, and was accordingly sent to the Tower on the accession of Mary; and being accused of heresy by the papal party, was burned at Oxford, 1556. As a reformer, he introduced the Bible into the churches, and so used his influence as a regent of Edward VI that the Reformation greatly prospered during the young monarch's reign. Shortly before his martyrdom, he signed a recantation contrary to his convictions, in hope of life; but at the stake he was more courageous, first thrusting into the flames the hand which signed the document, exclaiming many times, "O my unworthy right hand!" p. 739, Para. 2.
Hugh Latimer, born about 1490, one of the chief promoters of the Reformation in England, was educated at Cambridge, receiving the degree of master of arts. At the beginning of the Reformation, he was a zealous papist; but after conversing with the martyr Bilney, he renounced the Catholic faith, and labored earnestly in preaching the gospel. Henry VIII, being pleased with his discourses, made him bishop of Worcester; but being opposed to some of the king's measures, Latimer finally resigned. After the death of his patron, Cromwell, the latter's enemies sought him out, and he was sent to the Tower. He was released by Edward VI, but refused to be restored to his diocese, and remained with Cranmer, assisting in the Reformation. When Mary came to the throne, he was again sent to the Tower, thence with Cranmer and Ridley to dispute with popish bishops at Oxford. Here he argued with unusual clearness and simplicity, but was condemned and burned at the same stake with Ridley, in 1555. p. 739, Para. 3.
John Bradford was born in the first part of the reign of Henry VIII. He early evinced a taste for learning and began the study of law; but finding theology more congenial, removed to Cambridge University, where his ability and piety won for him, in less than a year, the degree of master of arts. Soon after, he was made chaplain to Edward VI, and became one of the most popular preachers of Protestantism in the kingdom. But after the accession of that rigid Catholic, Mary, he was arrested on the charge of heresy, and confined in the Tower a year and a half, during which time he aided with his pen the cause for which he suffered. When finally brought to trial, he defended his principles to the last, withstanding all attempts to effect his conversion to Romanism. He was condemned, and committed to the flames in 1555. He died, rejoicing thus to be able to suffer for the truth. p. 740, Para. 1.
Nicholas Ridley, a learned English bishop and martyr, educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, was born about 1500. His great abilities and piety recommended him to the notice of Archbishop Cranmer, through whom he was made chaplain to the king. In the reign of Edward VI, he was nominated to the see of Rochester, and finally to the bishopric of London. By his influence with the young king, the priories and revenues devoted to the maintenance of corrupt friars and monks were used for charitable purposes. On the decease of Edward, he embraced the cause of Lady Jane Grey, and in a sermon warned the people of the evil that would befall Protestantism if Mary should come to the throne. For this, and for his zeal in aiding the Reformation, he was seized by Queen Mary, sent to Oxford to dispute with some of the popish bishops, and on his refusing to recant, was burned with Latimer, 1555. p. 740, Para. 2.
John Hooper was born about 1495, and was educated at Oxford. After taking his degree of bachelor of arts, he joined the Cistercian monks, but his attention being directed to the writings of Zwingli, after a diligent study of the Scriptures, he became a zealous advocate of the Reformation. Knowing the danger to which his opinions exposed him, he went to France. On his return to England, he found that plots were again being laid against his life, and escaped to Ireland, thence to France, and finally to Germany, where he remained some years. Again returning to England, he applied himself to instruct the masses, laboring so successfully that the king, Edward VI, requested him to remain in London to further the Reformation, and created him bishop of Worcester. On the accession of Mary, however, he was immediately arrested, sent to the Fleet prison, and, after eighteen months' confinement, was tried for heresy, and condemned to the flames in 1555. He endured the agonies of the stake with great fortitude, though they were unusually protracted on account of the use of green wood. p. 740, Para. 3.
John Rogers, the first of the many who were martyred during Queen Mary's reign, was born about 1500. He was educated at Cambridge, receiving holy orders, and was afterward chaplain to the English factory at Antwerp, where he became acquainted with Tyndale and Coverdale, and by their aid published a complete English version of the Bible. Removing to Wittenberg, he became pastor of a Dutch congregation; but when Edward VI came to the throne, he was invited home, and made prebendary and divinity reader of St. Paul's. On the Sunday after Queen Mary's accession, in a sermon at St. Paul's he exhorted the people to adhere to the doctrines taught in King Edward's days, and to resist all Catholic forms and dogmas. For this he was summoned before the council, but vindicated himself so well that he was dismissed. This not pleasing Mary, he was again summoned, and ordered to remain a prisoner in his own house; but he was soon after seized, and sent to Newgate. He was then tried and condemned, and refusing to recant, was burned, 1555. p. 788, Para. 3.
(For portraits, see page 518.)
Martin Luther, the greatest of reformers, was born in Saxony, in 1483. When a poor boy, a benevolent lady took him in charge to educate. At first he studied law, but a narrow escape from death so affected him with the uncertainty of life that he retired to a monastery. Here he came in possession of a Bible, and was struck with the difference between the teachings of the gospel and the practices of the Romish Church. Being sent on an errand to Rome, the impression was deepened, and when the pope issued his famous bull granting the sale of indulgences, Luther, who was then professor of divinity in the University of Wittenberg, was prepared to oppose it, which he did so ably that multitudes, including many nobles, upheld him. He was ordered to appear at Rome, but refused. The pope issued a condemnation, which Luther burned. At the Diet of Worms he refused to retract, and soon spread his view throughout the kingdom by his writings. He also translated the Bible into German. A decree being passed that the mass should be universally observed, a protest was issued by the reformed party, from which they received the name of Protestants. The confession of Augsburg, the standard of their faith, was then drawn up. He still kept on writing and laboring until he died, worn out by excessive toil, in 1546. p. 741, Para. 2.
Philip Melancthon, the famous reformer and friend of Luther, was born in the grand duchy of Baden in 1497. At the age of seventeen he graduated as master of arts from the university of Heidelberg, and soon after obtained the Greek professorship at Wittenberg. Here he formed a friendship with Luther, whose opinions he accepted and defended in his lectures and writings. His prudence aided the promulgation of Protestant doctrines greatly, as it guarded them from the abuses of intemperate zeal. His greatest work was the drawing up of the Augsburg Confession, although he was a fluent writer, and was the author of the first system of Protestant theology, which passed through more than fifty editions, and was used as a text-book in the universities. His learning and moderation became famous throughout all Europe, and the kings of England and France invited him to their kingdoms; but he preferred to remain at Wittenberg, where he died in 1560. p. 741, Para. 3.
Ulric Zwingli, whose name in the annals of Protestant reformers ranks second only to that of Luther, was born in 1484. As he early evinced a taste for study, he was sent first to Bale and Berne, and finally to the university at Vienna, to receive an education. On his return he was pastor of a large parish near his birthplace, and afterward preacher to the cathedral church at Zurich. Here he made a special study of the Scriptures, committing to memory the whole of the New and a part of the Old Testament. His theological researches led him to see the corruptions of the Romish Church, and he commenced declaiming against them, especially against papal indulgences, until he effected the same separation for Switzerland from the Catholic dominion, that Luther did for Saxony. These religious dissensions brought on a civil war in Switzerland, and Zwingli, who accompanied his army as chaplain, was slain on the field of battle, 1531. p. 742, Para. 1.
John Calvin, an eminent reformer, and founder of the religious sect known as the Calvinists, was born in 1509. He was early destined for the church, being presented with a benefice when only twelve years old. He was educated at Paris for the ministry; but becoming dissatisfied with the tenets of the Romish Church, he turned his attention to the law. He soon received the seeds of the reformed doctrine, and so strongly defended them that he was obliged to leave France. He retired to Bale, Switzerland, where he composed his famous Institutes of Christianity, which was translated into several languages. He then settled at Geneva as minister and professor of divinity, but was compelled to leave for refusing to obey some papal forms. Going to Strasburg, he raised up a French church, where he officiated. By the divines of this town he was sent as deputy to the Diet of Worms. He returned to Geneva after repeated solicitation, and was actively engaged as speaker and writer in the interests of the Reformation, until his death in 1564. p. 742, Para. 2.
John Knox, the celebrated Scotch reformer, was born in 1505, and was educated at St. Andrew's University. He received a priest's orders, but renounced popery after reading the writings of St. Augustine and Jerome. He was accused of heresy, and his public confession of faith condemned; but he began to preach it openly from the pulpit, and the reformed doctrines spread rapidly. St. Andrew's being taken by a French fleet, he was carried to Rouen, and condemned to the galleys, where he remained nineteen months. After his liberation, he went to England, and was made chaplain to Edward VI, having refused a bishopric. On Mary's accession, he went to Frankfort and preached to the English exiles. Thence he went to Geneva, where he was much esteemed by Calvin, to whose doctrines he was much attached. He returned to Scotland, where he died in 1572, after rendering the Reformation triumphant in his native land. p. 742, Para. 3.
John Bunyan, the most popular religious writer in the English language, was born in 1628. He was a tinker by trade, and therefore received but a meager education. His mind was little drawn toward religious matters until his enlistment as a soldier, during which one of his comrades, who had taken his post, was killed. This he looked upon as a direct interposition of Providence, and after his return home, became deeply concerned about his spiritual welfare. He soon joined the Baptist Church, and from an exhorter, became a successful preacher among them. At this time all dissenters from the Church of England were punished, and Bunyan was thrown into jail, where he remained twelve years. Here he wrote the world-renowned Pilgrim's Progress, which has since been translated into every tongue of Christendom. He was also the author of other religious writings, such as the Holy War. At the close of this persecution he was released. He soon resumed his former labors, and was popularly known as Bishop Bunyan. His death, in 1688, resulted from exposure. p. 742, Para. 4.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was born in 1703, and was educated at Oxford, becoming an eminent tutor in Lincoln College. With his brother and a few others, he formed a society for mutual edification in theological exercises, and they rigidly occupied themselves in religious duties, in fasting and prayer, and visiting prisons and relieving the suffering. At the solicitation of General Oglethorpe, Wesley accompanied him to Georgia with a view of converting the Indians. He finally returned to England to engage in missionary labors, but his design was not to withdraw from the established Church of England, but to create a revival among the neglected classes by preaching salvation through simple faith in Christ. However, the churches being shut against him, he held open-air services, obtaining so many converts that organization became necessary, and spacious churches were built. Until his death in 1791, he was indefatigable in his self-imposed work, which he carried through England, Scotland, and Ireland, traveling nearly 300,000 miles, and preaching over 40,000 sermons, besides being a voluminous writer. p. 743, Para. 1.
George Whitefield, an English clergyman, born in 1714, was educated at Oxford, where he received the degree of B. A., and where he became acquainted with Charles Wesley, and was an enthusiastic member of the club which gave rise to Methodism. He was soon ordained, and commenced his remarkable missionary career. Upon the urgent invitation of John Wesley, who was in Georgia, he embarked for America, but soon returned to solicit funds for a proposed orphan asylum. He made five subsequent visits to America, preaching in all the large cities, also in those of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and made a journey to Holland. He met with great opposition from the clergy, and being shut out of the churches, was the first to introduce open-air services. Having differed from the Weslyes in some belief, they finally separated, which gave rise to the two classes, Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists. He still continued his laborious efforts, sometimes speaking three and four times a day for weeks, until his death, in 1770, at Newburyport, Mass., while preparing for a seventh missionary tour in America. p. 743, Para. 2.
John Fletcher was born in Switzerland, in 1729. He was of noble birth, and was educated at the university of Geneva. Not conforming conscientiously to all the Calvinistic doctrines, he forsook the clerical profession, and entered military service. Peace being proclaimed, he went to England as a tutor. He joined the Methodist society, and received orders from the Church of England. Though presented with a good living, he declined, saying "that it afforded too much money for too little work." The poor and suffering were his charge, and in a region of mines and mountains, midst opposition and persecution, he labored with charity and devotion. He visited France, Switzerland, and Italy, and on his return was president of a theological school, but his advocacy of Wesleyanism sundered the connection. He afterward devoted his life to parishional duties, making long missionary journeys with Wesley and Whitefield, and to the preparation in writing of their peculiar doctrines. His death occurred in 1785. p. 791, Para. 3.
William Miller, the greatest reformer of modern times, born in Massachusetts in 1782, was of poor but honorable parentage. Having a thirst for knowledge, he acquired considerable education by his own exertions. He served in the war of 1812, and was promoted to the rank of captain. Until 1816 he favored infidelity; but a careful study of the Bible for the purpose of refuting Christianity convinced him of his error, and opened to the world the then almost unexplored fields of prophecy. After much solicitation, he began his life work, -- the promulgation of the prophetic interpretations, especially in regard to the second advent, thus inseparably connecting himself with the great religious movement of 1844. The message soon became so wide- spread that invitations came from all the principal cities of the United States, as many as possible of which he answered; and a revival such as had never been known sprang up in every denomination, extending even to Europe. Though disappointed in the time of the second advent, by a misapplication of prophecy, the majority of his views proved themselves to be correct, and introduced a new era in the never-ending work of reformation. He devoted himself to the work which he had begun, both lecturing and writing, until his peaceful death in 1849. p. 792, Para. 1.
© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2011. Last updated October, 2019.
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