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hope of victory always inspires an army with courage and confidence. This is the case with the Church of God, in their
opposition to the world. They know that they shall finally prevail, and gain their object. And since the world know that they possess this hope and confidence, they appear like an army with banners, and carry consternation to all who are fighting against God.
1. Since the Church are so powerful and irresistible in their opposition to the world, it is strange that the world have been no more sensible of their weakness and impotence in contending with the Church. They have always been extremely bold and presumptuous, in opposing and endeavoring to destroy the Church, and have been very confident, that they should finally prevail and conquer. David has repeatedly described their violent opposition, and presumptuous confidence. He demands,
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” Again, he says, “Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary. They break down the carved work thereof at once, with axes and hammers. They have cast fire into thy sanctuary. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together.” “Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof." This has always been the language and practice of the world. They have felt and acted out their enmity and opposition to the Church in all ages. They violently opposed the ancient patriarchs, until there was but one pious family left. The Egyptians opposed and attempted to destroy the Church, while they continued among them. The seven nations of Canaan attempted to destroy them, while passing through the wilderness. The nations round about Judea often invaded and endeavored to destroy them. The Assyrians and Babylonians often attacked and plundered them, and finally carried most of them into perpetual captivity. And since the establishment of the Christian Church, all nations have been using all their art and influence to corrupt and destroy them. But the Church have always been like an army with banners, terrible and destructive to all
their enemies. The patriarchal Church destroyed an ungodly world. The Mosaic Church destroyed the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. The Christian Church has proved the ruin of the Grecians and Romans, and well nigh of the French and Spaniards, who have all in their turn manifested a cruel and persecuting spirit towards the Church of Christ. God has always appeared in favor of his Church, and displayed his wrath and indignation against all the nations of the earth, for their enmity and opposition to the children of Zion. It is strange, therefore, that the world have not long ago been convinced of the folly and danger, as well as criminality of opposing the Church, who have all holy beings on their side, and are armed with powerful and irresistible weapons. The world have always been infatuated, when they have openly and violently opposed the Church. It is expressly said, that God hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, that they might pursue the Israelites to their own destruction. And it is expressly said, that God hardened the hearts of the nations, who came out in battle against Joshua and the Israelites in the wilderness, that they might be destroyed. And while the king
, of Babylon meant to cut off and destroy the Church, God meant that the Church should destroy him. God has continually been infatuating the nations of the earth, hardening their hearts, and awakening their opposition to his people, cause, and kingdom, to prepare them for their merited condemnation and doom. The late combinations in Europe against Christ and his Church, have brought upon the conspirators the most tremendous and desolating judgments. The conspirators against the Church were infatuated to ruin themselves. And still the world are so stupid as to despise and oppose the Church, who always have been, and always will be, under God, too mighty for their enemies.
2. If the true Church are so powerful and irresistible, as has been shown, then it argues extreme folly and guilt in the men of the world to oppose the true Church under the pretence of opposing the false Church. This has been the conduct of the world. They have generally allowed that God has a true Church, composed of his cordial friends. And these they acknowledge are truly amiable, and worthy of universal approbation and esteem. But they say there is a false Church, composed of the vilest of the human race, who, under the pretence of piety and virtue, deceive and injure all who have any concern with them. The world never pretend to oppose good men, but only bad men. They never pretend to oppose true religion, but only false. The men of the world opposed, perse
cuted, and put to death the Puritans in England, under pretence of opposing false professors and false religion. And the conspirators against Christian professors in France pretended to oppose, persecute, and destroy them for their errors and delusions, and hypocrisy, but not for their piety. And all the opposition that the men of the world now feel and express towards professors of religion, they pretend to feel and express towards false professors and false religion. They do not presume to call all religion in question, nor to oppose all professors, but only the insincere and hypocritical. This, however, is not true. For the true Church, composed of pious members, is the only Church that is formidable to the world, and really excites their enmity and opposition. The false Church, composed of false professors, are really of the world, and the world always love their own, and approve of them, instead of
, opposing them. The world are enemies only to Christ and his true followers. These they justly view as opposed to them, and unitedly engaged to pull down the kingdom of darkness to which they belong, and the strongholds in which they endeavor to guard themselves against the spiritual and deadly weapons of the true Church. But the true Church have a spiritual discerning of their concealed enmity and opposition to them. They have once been in their camp, heard their language, and united in their conspiracy against Christ and his friends. They know whom they really aim at, in all their
. acts of hostility against the gospel and the professors of the gospel. And Christ, the captain of their salvation, knows, infinitely better, all their inward views, and feelings, and designs, in all they say and do against himself and his true followers. Though they pretend to oppose none but impostors and false professors, and deceivers ; yet he knows that all their hostility is aimed and pointed against the true Church, and its Head, and members. Paul, when he breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, pretended to oppose none but Christ as an impostor, and his followers as insincere and false professors of true religion. But Christ knew Paul better than he knew himself, and charges him with mortal enmity against him and his sincere friends. When he met him going to Damascus, he accosted him and condemned him in this solemn and cutting manner : “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" It is in vain for the world to pretend, that they opposed only a false Church and false professors ; for Christ, who feels and resents all that is done against his sincere followers, knows that he and they are the real objects of the world's hatred and opposition; and he will treat his and their enemies, according to their malevolent feelings and conduct. There is reason to fear that there are multitudes at this day, who are opposing true religion and the true professors of it, under a fatal delusion, that they are only opposing a false religion and its false professors.
3. If the true Church are powerful and irresistible, then the world have reason to be afraid of opposing them, when they are most diminished and weakened, in respect to numbers. Though their own numbers are sometimes small and weak, yet their allies are numerous and powerful. The Church in their lowest state have God and all holy beings on their side, engaged to assist and protect them. God, speaking of the Church, , which he calls his vineyard, says, “I, the Lord, do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” It is as dangerous to the world, to oppose the true Church at one time, as at another, and they are as unable to hurt, or destroy it, at one time, as at another. The world are often so infatuated, as to imagine, that when the Church is small, it is weak, and can be easily, safely, and successfully opposed; but this is a great delusion. The Church are always strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. When the Church consisted of but one family, the world could not destroy it. When it was but a small remnant, in Isaiah's day, the world could not destroy it. When it crept into corners, for fear of the Jews, the world could not destroy it. It has never been so small and so weak, but it has been powerful and terrible as an army with banners to the world. God has always made the Church as numerous and powerful as he pleased. And there is reason to believe, that whenever he has reduced their numbers and strength, it has been for the purpose of infatuating their enemies, and leading them into a controversy with Zion, that they might be confounded and destroyed. What if the Church be reduced to a handful, in different places? God is able to enlarge and strengthen it at any time, and to any degree he pleases. The world have no reason to rejoice and triumph in their opposition. They are only preparing the way for their own overthrow, and the final triumph of the Church. The Lord has always appeared in his glory in building up Zion, when his servants take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof. It is unbelief in the Church to despond in their lowest and weakest state; and presumption in the world to oppose them in that condition. It is as difficult, and dangerous, and hopeless in the world, to oppose the Church at one time, as at another.
4. If the true Church be truly powerful and formidable, then
there are no neuters in respect to them. Many in the world, who belong to the world, desire to be neutral to the Church. They do not desire to join with the Church, nor to oppose the Church; and some, no doubt, persuade themselves, that they neither love nor hate, neither favor nor oppose the Church, but feel very indifferent whether the Church should be multiplied, or diminished, and whether they should grow stronger or weaker. But this betrays great ignorance of their own hearts, and forgetfulness of their past feelings. Who that have lived in a time of a revival of religion, have not sensibly felt opposition to religion, and to those who hopefully experienced it? And are there any now, that are in a state of nature, who feel indifferent whether God shall appear again in his glory in building up Zion? Do not the present Church, small as they are, appear as formidable as an army with banners? And do any who are not of their num= ber, desire that their number and strength should increase? If they would only consult their own hearts, they would find them for, or against the Church, and not entertain a doubt on which side they are. God allows of no neuters. The true Church allow of none; and those who do not belong to the true Church are conscious that they are not neuters. The whole world are divided into two great armies, who are determined to overcome each other. Some are leaders, and some are followers, on both sides. · The former hold the most conspicuous place, and act the most conspicuous parts. The leaders on both sides oppose each other, more than others, who are not so conspicuous and active. · But the most inactive feel more or less interest in the contest between the Church and the world, and often stand ready, when especially called upon, to afford their assistance to those, who are pursuing the object which they ultimately desire should be obtained. God enrolls all men, either with his Church or against his Church, and they must all ere long be constrained to answer to their names, and take their proper rank. They are yet at liberty to put down their names upon which roll they will. But if they misplace their names, God will rectify their mistake, which will afford joy, or extreme sorrow and anguish of heart. You have this day been called upon to take your proper places, but some of you may have grossly erred. God has given you directions plain enough, and if you have either misunderstood, or disregarded his directions, the blame is yours, and you must abide the serious consequences.
5. If the true Church are so powerful and irresistible, as they have been represented, then there is no danger in openly and sincerely joining with the Church. The Church are the only