Thoughts on the history of professing Christianity, Part 8

We come to the final extract from Benjamin Wills Newton’s book, Prospects of the Ten Kingdoms, the chapter 6 — THOUGHTS ON THE HISTORY OF PROFESSING CHRISTIANITY, AS GIVEN IN THE PARABLES OF MATTHEW XIII.

I sincerely trust that you found his writings instructive and helpful. One dear reader has told me how that she reads the extracts over a number of times in order to grasp the full meaning of what is written. That is a wise course of action and one in which I engage also!

Here is Part 8, which covers pages 179-185.

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If at the Reformation a few, by recognising that the elect Church was the “treasure” for which Christ died, and acting on that recognition gave thereby a new phase to Christianity and marked a fresh era in its history, would not a similar recognition of these further truths, even within a comparatively narrow circle, produce a similar result? Would it not give a new aspect to Christianity in the earth? The mere fact of this parable respecting “the pearl” forming one of the links in this evidently connected chain, would lead us to expect that, before “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” conclude, there would be yet once more an interference of God on behalf of His neglected Truth, resulting in some of His people being caused to teach and to act according to the principles illustrated by “the pearl.” This, indeed, is what other parts of Scripture would lead us to expect. We read in the Book of Revelation of some who are said to “keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,” at the very moment of the Church’s last trial; and their faithfulness is such that it is made the subject of thanksgiving, even in heaven. “They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives even unto death.” In Daniel also, some are mentioned who are expressly designated “the wise or understanding ones” at that same hour. “The wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand, but the understanding ones shall understand.” Even then, as at the close of a day of tempest and gloom the sun sometimes struggles for a moment through the resisting clouds, and darts one parting ray of brightness over the troubled scene, so may we believe that it will be in this our dark dispensation of sorrow and of failure. A testimony will for a short moment be given, raged against by Satan, crushed by the governments of the Roman earth,*

*See Rev. xii. Satan by means of the Ten Kingdoms of the Roman World, seeks to destroy those who are represented in that vision as the children of the TRUTH.

hated by all men, a feeble few excepted, yet honourable and precious in the sight of God. After this testimony has been given, the net, which has through God’s patient grace so long been toiling in the great deep, will be drawn to shore. In every age it will have enclosed some “fish.” Their character will then be determined: “the good will be gathered into vessels,” “the bad cast away.”

Thus ends this series of parables. When they finish, “the mysteries of the kingdom” end, and the time of its glories, according to all that the Old Testament Prophets have revealed, at length comes. We have to remember both these things: its humiliation, and its glory. We have to bring out of our “treasures, things new and old.”

If any should hesitate to regard this chapter as the intended prophetic history of our dispensation, let them use it simply in the way of illustration. Let them consider what the great cardinal events in the history of Christianity have been, and let them see how far they can be illustrated from these parables. The instruction will still remain.

It has not unfrequently been asked, whether the woman with the leaven in the thirteenth of Matthew is the same as the woman first seen concealed in the Ephah, (Zech. v.) and afterwards displayed in the attractiveness which the seventeenth of the Revelation describes.

This question may be answered by asking another. Suppose a system were now to be formed with the view of uniting the Ten Kingdoms of the Roman World, and commanding a moral influence over them; would that system be ecclesiastical, and therefore necessarily narrow in its scope, or must it be a system wide enough to embrace the many minds which it would have to influence, whether Jew or Greek, Mahomedan or Heathen, Papist or nominal Protestant?

Few will hesitate in answering this question. Whether such a system were collocated at Paris or Constantinople, at Rome or Jerusalem, at London or Babylon, it must be wide enough to embrace men as men.

Such is the system at present hidden in the Ephah, but soon to be displayed in the land of Shinar, in all the attractiveness which the seventeenth of the Revelation describes. False Christianity, as exhibited in the Roman and Eastern Churches, has, by feeding the nations with leavened meal, prepared the way for the seductions of that coming system, which is symbolised by a woman holding in her hand a cup, with the wine of which the nations are made drunken – a cup of intoxicating joy. No ecclesiastical system has ever yet spread universal gladness among the nations. On the contrary, the rule of such systems has been oppressive, and their yoke grievous. But the very power of the coming system will be, that it makes the nations glad with her wine, and with her delicacies.

Those who are now turning from the Scripture, and discarding the precious truths which the Protestant Reformation restored, may be distributed into two great divisions. The one class are retracing their way back to forsaken superstitions, and are seeking to become as near as possible what the Church was when she first became like the woman spreading the leaven. Another, and an increasing class, both in Germany, Switzerland and England, are throwing off all real regard to Scripture, and enamoured of schemes about man’s powers, and man’s destinies, are preparing themselves and others to welcome a system based on principles of human not Christian fraternisation.

No two paths therefore, can be more thoroughly opposed than those which these two classes are at present following. But they will be found capable of being bent round to the same point at last. The attractiveness, and still more the influence of the woman of the seventeenth chapter of the Revelation will (at any rate throughout the Ten Kingdoms) entirely eclipse the attractiveness of the woman with the leaven. The latter will yield to the superior power of her rival, and become her servant. Her present votaries will follow in her train, and be transferred to the palaces of the Harlot. Symptoms of this yielding on the part of professing Christianity to the rising system of commercial and secular power are already manifest.

But the woman with the leaven, and the woman hidden in the Ephah, are not the only symbolic women of whom we read in the Scripture. We read also of another woman “clothed with the sun and with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” She represents the system of God – the system of His revealed Truth now present in the earth*— His Truth as revealed in the Holy Scriptures

*The character of glorious power which will attach to God’s system of truth in the millennium, is clearly expressed by these symbols. It will be sustained by the presence of Christ’s personal glory, that. is symbolised by “the sun.” The glory of the risen saints is continually represented by “stars.” Hence her crown. “The moon,” as shining with reflected light, is the emblem of ecclesiastical position – a position that will then be held by Israel, made subservient to God’s truth. “The moon” was under her feet.

When we remember that God’s truth is finally, to be exalted, so as to be supreme over all nations? and that it is to be sustained by the full power of Christ’s manifested millennial glory, we might expect that it would be represented, even whilst yet despised and outcast, by symbols expressive of its essential excellency – an excellency which in God’s estimate, and therefore in the estimate of faith, attaches to it under all circumstances.

There is reason to hope that some, through increased acquaintance with the Scriptures, are becoming more sensible that there is such a system of Divine Truth now present in the earth. They are beginning to understand its character and its prospects in contrast both with those of the woman with the leaven, and with those of the Harlot of the Revelation. To such these questions are no matter of curious speculation.

Their estimate of the worldliness and falsehoods and idolatries of the professing Church, and of the yet more terrible wickedness of the rising latitudinarian system that will culminate in the Harlot of Babylon and Antichrist – their estimate of these things in contrast with the holiness and purity of DIVINE TRUTH, as revealed plainly, fully and systematically in God’s written word, is to them no barren abstraction. It supplies the influencing motives of their conduct. It enters into all their meditations, affects every prayer, and determines, more or less, all the practical arrangements of their lives. They see in Ecclesiasticism and in Latitudinarian Secularism, SATAN; in revealed TRUTH, that which Prophets and Apostles have written, they see God. They feel and they act accordingly.