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WATCHMAN! WHAT OF THE NIGHT? A TRACT, ADDRESSED TO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, ON THE OPENING OF THE YEAR, 1825.
"Watchman! what of the night?" Isa. xxi. 11.
Still in the body, and favoured by the Lord to number my days in the arithmetic of human life in closing the old year, I avail myself of the privilege to send my gratulations to the church of our most glorious Christ at the opening of the new health from the fountain of health, Christ Jesus, "to all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." Amen.
Every new epoch in the calculations of time hath been uniformly the custom of mankind in all ages to observe in their memorials. The period of a new year with most men is made a festival; with the spiritual church of Christ it is eminently so: and in the present era of impending events, every redeemed and regenerated child of God is supposed to be, like the prophet, on the watch tower, Habak. ii. 1. In the love-token of remembrance, with which I now desire to salute the church, I beg indulgence to preface what I have to offer with a few preliminary observations.
And first, I venture to assume as a fixed, certain, and unquestionable principle, denied only by infidels (with whom I have nothing to do), but admitted by all who name the name of Christ, that the interests of Zion are at the bottom of all the dispensations of the divine government in the world; for however diversified the church of Christ may be in opinion on minor subjects, arising from the infirmity of nature, and the weakness of faith, yet here there can be but one and the same conviction in all that are taught of God: through all the departments in the divine administration, from the falling of a sparrow to the rising or overthrowing of states and empires, every minute or greater event is wholly directed, or made subservient to the accomplishment of this one glorious
design; as the final issue of all, namely, "to make known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord," Eph. iii. 10, 11. I cannot, therefore, hesitate, to make this the datum of all the Lord's proceedings through the earth. The glory of God is, and necessarily must be, the first and ultimate cause of all things, and the happiness of his church the sure effect. The Lord's own decision is to this amount, "This people have I formed for myself, they shall shew forth my praise," Isa. xliii. 21. And amidst all the various occupations and pursuits of men, and in the seeming contrarieties of human actions; some, apparently opposing the divine will; others, indifferent about it; some blaspheming the Lord; others, persecuting the Lord's people; yet all under the divine controul, and like the vast machine the prophet saw in vision, wheel within wheel, the whole to his view complicated and entangled, yet each accomplishing the various purposes the Lord appointed; "howbeit (as the scripture most sublimely states it) he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so," Isa. x. 7. Hence therefore, the whole of what we behold going on in the circumstances of mankind, how humiliating soever it may be to the pride of human life, all are by the overruling power of God what they are to minister to his church; and when the carnal world shall have accomplished this purpose, like the scaffolding to a building no longer useful when the building itself is completed, will be taken down and destroyed; and the church of our most glorious Christ will be brought forth," with the headstone thereof, and with shoutings, crying, grace, grace unto it," Zech. iv. 7.
Secondly. Assuming the former statement for a principle perfectly incontrovertible, and arising from thence as from a well secured bottom on which to rear up a superstructure, I go on to observe, that as it is for the
everlasting welfare of the church of our most glorious Christ all the events of the present time-state both of men and things minister, so the holy scriptures of God, in all their revelations and records, have reference to the church, and to the church only: from the first dawn of prophecy to the meridian of the gospel, every prediction given, every ordinance instituted, every sacrifice offered, had respect only to the church, as she had her being and her well being in Christ. His glorious Person became the one great object of the whole scope of prophecies, types, and ordinances, to delineate by shadowy representations: and the infinite fulness, allsufficiency, and suitableness of his mighty salvation for his church, the one great subject of accomplishment: and when, in what is called in holy scripture, "the fulness of time," the Lord of life and glory came in substance of our flesh," to seal up the vision of prophecy, and was anointed as the Most Holy:" (according to the language of the prophet, Dan. ix. 24.) then it was,
by the one offering of himself once offered, that he perfected for ever them that are sanctified," Heb. x. 10 to 14: then it was, that "he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," Heb. ix. 26. and from the cross, as from the high altar of his own divine nature, by the infinite dignity of his Person and the infinite merits of his blood, he washed away all the iniquities of his people so that by the efficacy of both, in this midday of time, the Son of God finished redemption; reaching back to the first morning of the church in time, and extending to the latest period of the world before the opening of eternity. And all the remaining prophecies of scripture, from the death of Christ to the consummation of all things, which since have been fulfilled, are now fulfilling, and hereafter to be fulfilled in the earth, have an eye to Christ and his church, and to him only. Under the similitude of seals opened, trumpets blown, and vials poured out, the several ages
of the church and the events in them are spoken of in the book of Revelation, with which is closed the sacred canon of holy scripture. And for the joy and comfort of the church, the last of the wonderful events by which it will be known that all the enemies of the church are finally subdued, and herself triumphant in Christ, is to be when the seventh trumpet shall sound; for thus we read, " And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever,' "Rev. xi. 15.
Thirdly. Advancing cautiously and with great reverence upon a subject so profoundly deep and mysterious, not presuming to make one step but within the sacred inclosure of holy scripture, I proceed to observe, that it hath been the uniform practice of the church, with the saints of God, in all ages, and especially among such as are appointed of the Lord to minister in holy things, to watch the Lord in the dispensation both of his providence and of his grace towards his church, and notice from time to time with particular regard the fulfilment of his prophecies, as they have been in ages past, and as they are now opened and unfolded by the Lord to his people. We hereby discover, through divine teaching, how the Lord hath rendered the ministry of the fathers profitable to the children, and thus becoming helpful towards the generations yet to come; thus Peter speaks of the old testament saints, from the spirit of Christ which was in them ministering to the new testament believers; and thus while the scriptures of the prophets were blessed to the apostles, the same almighty God which blessed both, now renders the prophecies of the apostles blissful to us by his own divine interpretation of them; see 1 Pet. i. 10 to 12. The same spirit of Christ, which was in the saints of the old dispensation, was no less in the new; and it is from the same almighty
Lord the Holy Ghost, that any spiritual apprehension of his scriptures can be discovered. Among the many sacred predictions of the Lord with which the inspired writings of the apostles abound, we are arrested to behold, with the most marked attention, what is said of "the last days," and "the perilous times." I stay not to make quotations, this would make my subject too diffuse; neither do I think it needful. That man can be but little conversant with his bible, neither with what is daily passing every where around him, not to see the striking coincidence between the things foretold and the things themselves. Had Paul, or Peter, or John, or Jude, delivered their predictions but yesterday, nothing could have been more accurately designated than the portrait pencilled by the apostles to the features which were to mark the original. In those scriptures great events are recorded which were delivered by the apostles under the spirit of prophecy, and have since in many instances been fulfilled: greater still are contained in them, which remain to be accomplished. Not to mention any other in this place than one, the slaughter of the "two witnesses," Rev. xi. 7. And whenever that event takes place marvellous consequences we are informed will soon follow it hath pleased the Lord to throw a vail over the subject; so that at this hour none who are supernaturally taught of God (and all not so taught can know nothing of it) have been led to discover who those witnesses are, neither time when they are to be slain. Some of the wisest and the best of men, since the apostle's days, at the reformation, were of opinion that the time when the witnesses would be killed would be before the close of the seventeenth century: but we of the present hour have lived to see the end of the eighteenth century, yea, and a fourth part of the nineteenth finished, and the event hath not taken place. By so much, however, as the world is getting older, by so much are we