An Address to the Believers in the Second Advent Near, Scattered Abroad
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MY DEAR BRETHREN AND FRIENDS: -
GRACE, mercy and peace be multiplied unto you, from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ. In time past, I have travelled quite extensively in the U. States and in Canada, publishing the glorious news of the near approach of the Second Coming of the dear Savior, to tens of thousands, both of saints and sinners. With many of these, I have formed the happiest acquaintance. It would afford me the greatest pleasure to meet those friends again, and renew an acquaintance so happy and endearing. But for this I cannot hope in this world. You will therefore permit me to address you, through the only medium now left me, on the glorious subject which has occupied your and my attention for several years past. It may be the last time I shall be favored with of addressing my friends scattered abroad, to whom I am bound by so many tender ties. As a friend of mine has conceived the idea of publishing another volume of my productions, which may fall into the hands of very many of my old friends who will see my face no more in this world, I avail myself of the privilege of appending to the same this address, containing my solemn, and, perhaps, last advice to you all, and thereby clearing the skirts of my garments of the blood of all. It is about nine years since I first began to publish the doctrine of the Advent near; though I had been fully convinced of its truth long before, by a close and patient study of the Bible. But such were the difficulties attending its promulgation, that I was restrained from the duty for a long time. And when you consider the circumstances in which I was placed, you will not wonder that I shrunk, for a time, from the responsibility. I was alone; “no man stood with me” for a number of years. I had to contend against the prepossessions and prejudices of the entire christian community; the systems, talents, as also the superior education of the clergy; the religious press, and the political also, throughout the country; the institutions of learning, both literary and theological; the unbelief of the church; and, in short, the whole world were against me. Had you have seen the old farmer then, without education, with but limited means, almost unknown, unaccustomed to public speaking; without sympathy, authority, or recommendation from men; going into the world with the Bible alone in his hand to bear a solemn message to a sleeping church and a stupid world; - a message so alarming as the announcement of the speedy coming of the last judgment, and the conflagration of the world; - a doctrine so contrary to the human heart, so opposed to all the received opinions of the community; - had you have seen me under these circumstances, I am disposed to believe that you would have pronounced me very visionary and fanatical. I speak not these things boastingly; God forbid; but rather to show my weakness and incompetency, and to magnify the wisdom and power of God, who is able to take worms to thresh mountains, and the weak things of the world to confound the wise and mighty; and that you may value these things the more, as being of God, and remain steadfast, watching unto prayer. This view of the instrumentality which God has seen fit to employ in connection with the effects produced, will show that this cause and doctrine are of God. What other object could I have had in view, in preaching this doctrine, under the trying circumstances specified above, but to glorify God and save my fellow-men? Yet how many unworthy objects and motives have been attributed to me, by many of the professed disciples of Christ, and by a scoffing and unbelieving world! Take for examples the following from among the thousand lying reports circulated through the land: - “That it was for worldly gain!” How can this be true? Look at the circumstances. According to my calculation of “prophetic times,” there were but twelve years to the “consummation of all things.” If I ever got rich, it must be within this period of time. Now what were the facts? Four years of the time were spent in New York, Vermont, and Canada; and all that the old man received would not amount to one dollar! Not that the brethren were not willing to give. No; for they often urged me to take; but it was wholly refused. Since which time, I have received some contributions, in order to bear my heavy travelling expenses; but my receipts have never exceeded my expenditures. But say they, “he has made it by his books.” But, my brethren, this cannot be a motive; for my books were not thought of nor written until a number of years after I had gone out and published the doctrine. And then, again, the books were not published by me; but by those to whom I gave the privilege of publishing the first and second editions without charge. Does this look like speculation? “Well, then,” says the opposer, “he does it to get a name, like the man who set a city on fire that he might obtain notoriety.” This needs no argument to confute it. The man who could conceive so ridiculous and silly a motive, or impute to others such motives, would be considered, if justly dealt with, either a madman or a fool; particularly where there is not a particle of evidence to support such imputations. Then he does it “to raise up a sect or party.” This needs no more argument than the former. To raise a party or sect, to exist certainly not more than twelve years, and now not more than three years, - you cannot suppose it to be an object. Again, thousands, and even tens of thousands more of you can witness, that I have begged of you to make no divisions in your churches or sects; that we had more than enough already. I have advised all men of every sect not to separate from their brethren, if they could live among them and enjoy christian privileges. I have often given my advice to those who have complained of persecution among their brethren, to live down persecution by well-ordered lives and godly conversation. Surely, my brethren, you will say this doth not look like sectarianism. And then, to cap the climax of arguments, a Rev. D.D. of the Baptist order cries out, “It is all moonshine.” “Amen,” says the Universalist minister. This is argument well endorsed. My opponents have been in the habit, too, of spreading false reports, in order to destroy the influence of what they could not confute, and by ridicule try to destroy what in sober reason they could not condemn. They have published my death in the public papers, when some of them knew it to be false. They have published, and reported, over and over again, that I had altered my calculation of prophetic time a hundred years. They have published the foolish story, that I would not gamble away my little home, in order to convince wicked and corrupt men that I believed the doctrine that I preached. They have told and published too that I built stone-wall instead of rail-fence on my farm. Some have gone into distant places, and reported that I was building a large house with money I got for preaching, when the truth is I built a house in 1817, of small dimensions. They have reported that I was insane, and had been in a mad-house seven years; if they had said a mad world fifty-seven years, I must have plead guilty to the charge. They have reported, that, for preaching this doctrine in many places, I have been cast into prison. They have reported, that city authorities had ordered me to leave their jurisdictions, and not to preach publicly within their borders. Here let me state, as an act of justice to my country, and honorable to our rulers, that in no case has any officer, in any city or town that ever I have been in, or under any government, interfered between me and my duty, or misused me in any manner; but wherever I have had any occasion for their assistance, I have ever found them prompt and energetic in their measures, and kind and gentlemanly in their manners. I wish I could say as much of some of our bigoted clergymen. These, and many more foolish and false reports, have been circulated through our country; yes, and by those who ought to be examples of the flock and shepherds in Israel. And now let us take a view of the effects produced by the promulgation of this doctrine, and see how much evidence we have that it is of God. 1. Wherever this subject has been presented to the people with any fairness, it has been invariably said, and you yourselves are witnesses, that it has produced a general reading and searching of the Bible; our enemies themselves being witnesses also. This cannot be called a bad effect. 2. Wherever this fruit has been seen, (“the searching of Bible,”) it has produced a complete revolution with a large majority of such in their faith and hope. And whereas some did not believe that Christ was ever coming again to the earth, or, if he did, it was a great while yet to come, and of course there could be no such thing as watching for his return with such; now they are anxiously looking for his glorious appearing. This must have the happiest influence on the mind and life of every individual who thus believes. Again, many were of opinion, that the church in some future period would enjoy a long time of unexampled prosperity; while those who had slept would sleep on for 1000 years, and some supposed 365,000 years; and of course they would not be united with their brethren, nor be satisfied, until a vast number of years had rolled away, for the resurrection could not take place until after that period. Now they believe in the near approach of the resurrection, and the final union of all the saints, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; and that the great Sabbath will be enjoyed as a day of rest, with all the children at home. There is a great difference between their former and present faith, as well as hope. And you can all judge which is most scriptural, and congenial with the christian heart. 3. There were many, very many, sleeping and slumbering over this important subject, of the coming of Christ, the judgment day, and the glorious reign. Now, in every part of the christian world, the cry is being made, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him;” and the response is heard, “Come tell us of these things.” And you, my brethren, are my witnesses, many of you, that hundreds, yea thousands, have been as it were chained to their seats for hours, silent as the tomb, to hear this subject discussed. 4. In every place where this subject has been judiciously preached, and the necessity of repentance properly enforced, the sceptic, the deist, the Universalist, the impenitent and the careless of all classes, have been made by the power of the Spirit to see and feel their danger, and to seek for the forgiveness of their sins by repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Many of you, my brethren, can witness to the saving influence of preaching “the kingdom of God at hand,” as a motive to repentance, and to a godly life and conversation. 5. We have the consolation of seeing many of our best ministers renouncing the doctrine of the temporal millennium, believing in the Second Advent as near at hand; and the kingdom of God in its glorified state about to be established on the ruins of the kingdoms of this world; the resurrection of the just, and judgment of the saints; the reign of Christ on the earth 1000 years; then the resurrection of the wicked and the finale, or close of the judgment. I know and have heard of more than three hundred in the United States, and in all probability double that number may be found! Fifteen years ago, there were none, publicly known, in these United States. “This is the Lord's doing, and marvellous in our eyes.” And what is equally as marvellous, is, that there are some among all christian nations who are proclaiming this doctrine; and these, too, all coming out about the same time! Again, we find some of them among all sects or denominations, except among Universalists, and as they are the sect to which Paul alludes, 1 Thes. v. 3, the reason is very obvious why none of them believe. What has caused all this great movement to one point? Have our periodicals accomplished this? No, my brethren; five years ago not an individual could be found who had moral courage enough to edit a paper advocating these doctrines. Have societies been formed to carry the news? No. Have missionaries been sent out by any Board or sect? No. Have seminaries taught their students and sent them out to tell the church of the approach of her blessed Lord? No. What has revived and brought this soul-reviving news to the suffering children of God? Have wicked men? Our opponents dare not accuse us thus. What then has moved the wheel that rolls this blessed sound, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh?” Is it Satan? Look at the effects, and tell me what object he could have in opposing his own kingdom? How inconsistent he must be to oppose his own children thus! see how angry they are, how it disturbs their ranks! Will Beelzebub cast out devils? Again, where this doctrine is promulgated, see our churches waking up and trimming their lamps; see sinners converted, saints lifting up their heads and rejoicing! Has Satan become a missionary of this cast? Then I shall look for Christ to dismiss some of his “dumb dogs,” and employ better men. No, my brethren, reason and common sense tell us better. What then has called out some of every class, of every sect, in every place, and in all lands, with different gifts and discordant views on other points, to harmonize in this? The answer must be obvious; a child could tell us what; it is the Spirit and power of God. It is he who has promised “to do nothing but he will reveal his secret to his servants the prophets.” He can move upon the minds of his servants to read his word. He can open it to their understandings. He can call them to publish it far and near. He can protect them from the anger of men, and the fowler's snare. He will do his will on earth as in heaven, and no one can say, Why doest thou thus? Now let me address you in particular, my brethren in the gospel ministry, of every sect, who believe in the speedy coming of our Divine Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of our fathers in the gospel have undoubtedly desired to see the day which you now see is very nigh, but have fallen asleep in Christ and saw it not. For us who now live is reserved the most important period that man ever saw on earth: the time when these heavens and this earth are rolling together like a scroll, and the history of the world and the church are folding up for the judgment; - the time when the last remnant of prophecy is unfolding its leaves, and the last promise of God will be verified, “Surely I come quickly;” - at the time when the friends of the Bridegroom are giving the midnight cry, and the wise virgins are going out to meet him; - at the time when we see the signs of the Son of Man in heaven, and soon the clouds will bring him to our view; - at the time when the last vial of God's wrath is emptying its last plague on the earth, and the kingdoms of the whole world are gathering to the battle; - when the harvest of the earth is being reaped, and the gathering of the vine has evidently begun; - when the nations are angry, and the wrath of God will soon be manifested against our aggravated and national sins; - when many are running to and fro, and knowledge is rapidly increasing in the earth; - when the different sects in Christendom are dividing, and proving to the world that the end of all things which can be shaken is at hand. My brethren, “can you not discern the signs of the times?” Yes, I know many of you do. Then what a thrilling time! what a fearful period! and especially to those servants who may “say in their hearts, my Lord delayeth his coming;” or who “cry peace and safety when sudden destruction cometh!” Let us arouse ourselves, one and all, to the battle, not of blood, but of truth. Let us not mix with the divisions of the day in setting up men or measures, nor stop to contend who shall be greatest; but let our conversation be in heaven, from whence we look for the Savior. Let us be like servants who wait for their Lord. If we believe we shall soon stand before the judgment seat of Christ, will it not prompt us to have our work done and well done? so that we be not ashamed before him at his coming. If we believe the prophets, shall not our faith be manifested by our works? If we believe that the midnight cry is being made, will we not show ourselves to be friends of the Bridegroom? Can we behold the signs in the moral heavens gathering thick around us, and yet be unmoved at the sight? Do we behold the last plagues pouring upon this guilty world, and our warning voices not mingling in the blast? Is this the harvest-home, and are we folding our hands to sleep? Let us ask ourselves these solemn questions, and answer them to God and our own souls without deceit. Shall we see some of our brethren moving on to the onset, receiving the darts of the scoffer, the shafts of the malignant, the arrows of the enemies, and we, through fear or cowardice, remain among the stuff? No, my brethren, I am persuaded better things of you; if you have courage enough to avow your principles in this age of scoffers, you will have grace enough to protect you in the time of battle. Go on then to victory and glory. Bring in your whole strength to the field, give your enemies no advantage over you, put on the whole armor, be immovably fixed in this one thing, to stand whole nights on your watch-tower, if need be; to show our love for God by our faithfulness in the work he has assigned us to do. Let us manifest our love for souls, by our plain dealing in truth, and faithfully warning the wicked and impenitent of their danger. Let us take the Bible for our guide, and teach others the way of life. Then, if Christ come, we shall be found ready; and if he does not come at the time which I believe is specified in the Bible, still there can be no harm done; for to watch for his coming is duty now, and it can be no less a duty then. A few words to the dear brethren scattered over the land, in every church, and among all sects, who believe in the near approach of the Lord Jesus. My dear brethren, you will remember the joy of your heart when you first had evidence to believe that the day of the Lord was at hand. Many of you I have seen, and have seen you, too, at the moment when the evidence came home to your minds, and your hearts leaped for joy - I have seen your countenances lighted up with a beam of glory, like that which shone in the face of Moses, when he came down from the mount. I have often heard the whispered ejaculation, “God grant that it may be so.” I have often, very often, heard from a warm and animated heart, expressed by voice, the loud response, “Amen.” I have often felt, when retiring from the house of worship, the warm pressure of a hand, accompanied with a “God bless you, my brother.” I have received many written epistles, full of expressions of love and gratitude to God for the good news of a coming Savior. Need I say to such, watch, lest he come suddenly and find you sleeping? No. As well might I say to the loving mother, “Forget not your lovely babe.” What shall I say? I will say, Rejoice; for now your salvation from all sin is drawing nigh. Keep the faith, and soon you will receive a crown which is laid up for all those who love his appearing. I will say with the apostle, 1 Peter i. 13, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” And may I not say with our beloved brother Paul, 1 Cor. i. 6-8, “Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Go on, my brethren, in well doing; encourage, I pray you, those dear servants who are willing to publish the news of a coming Savior, the kingdom of heaven at hand. You know how your souls were fed, and now will you feed others? Remember that those who are willing to preach this good news are many of them poor and persecuted servants; even their own sects treat them harshly, turn them from their doors, and shut their pulpits against them. And shall it be said in that glorious day, “As much as ye did it not unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not to me,” unto any of you? No, no, I pledge my word for you. I know many of you have done otherwise by me. Some of you will remember, when the old man was turned from a clergyman's door and pulpit in a cold winter's night, you opened your doors, chaffed his stiffened feet and hands, and warmed his cheerless heart by your kindnesses. Go thou and do likewise to others who are the servants of Jesus, and a cup of cold water will not be unrewarded. Then, when opportunity offers, forget not to communicate to the messengers of Christ. A word to those who, by reading or hearing the Lectures on the coming of the Son of man, have been convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of a judgment, and have fled for refuge to the blessed Savior. I would say, hold on by faith, let no man take your crown of rejoicing from you; are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? You, undoubtedly, many of you, have been ridiculed by an unfeeling world; you have been taunted by the bigoted professor; you have heard the scoffs of the profane, and have sometimes been wounded by the barbed arrows of calumny. Let none of these things move you; remember your Savior also suffered all these things in the flesh, and that all things work together for good. Your trials are preparing you for the kingdom. The time is at hand. Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain: for God will bruise Satan under your feet shortly. I hope to meet you where sighing and sorrowing will be done away, where there will be no foes, where the last enemy, death, will be conquered, and the family of the redeemed meet in one general assembly. Oh! there will be joy, and immortal life, when we shall meet again! Therefore, let me persuade you to be faithful, even to the end. If any of you should feel your hearts grow cold, and relax from your duty, and have strong doubts of your interest in the kingdom, go to the Bible, pray for the Spirit of God to help you, examine this doctrine of the coming of Christ, the resurrection and judgment; if you are a child of God, you will love the doctrine; if you are not, you will hate it. Whatever you may think of yourself; whatever doubts or fears you may have, your heart must be the thermometer on this subject; your affections, like quicksilver, will rise or fall as you come in contact with this glorious theme. If a man love Christ, he will love his appearing; if he hate him. he will hate to see him come. This rule cannot be broken. Now, if; on close examination, you do love the thought, cast not away your confidence, which has great recompense of reward. The cares and conversation of this world have choked the seed, not destroyed it. Then let your conversation be in heaven, whence we look for the Savior. And now to all men who may read this address, I would say, Sirs, what is your prospect after the scene of this short life shall have closed? Have you an interest laid up in heaven? Do you possess that religion which assimilates to the life and examples of Jesus Christ? You must acknowledge if there is a religion on this earth, that would be pleasing to God, or honorable* (* See Appendix, No. II.) to man, it must be that kind manifested in the principles, life, and character of Jesus Christ. If God sent his Son into the world, it was partly to give the world a code of laws, by the which man might be reconciled to God, and worship him in spirit and in truth. And if that code was ever given to the world, it must be the Bible. Therefore, I would solemnly inquire, have you that religion? Are you prepared for eternity? Have you done the work which you have often promised God and your own soul you would do, before death or judgment should come upon you? Must you, can you, will you, slumber on, in your mantle of unbelief; in your robes of carnal security, until the last blast of Gabriel's trump shall awake you to shame and everlasting contempt? Oh, my friends, be wise, be cautious how you spend your time; it is but a span at most, and soon that span will run out, time itself with us must end. Be rational, be candid. Where can be the harm in being prepared? You all in your hearts answer, none. Very well, then, it is better to be ready and not go, than to go and not be ready. Let me pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. There is religion for you, it is free as the mountain brook, it is plenteous as the dew on mount Hermon, it is as rich as the fruits in autumn, there is “enough and to spare,” it is ever green as the foliage in the spring. Why then perish? What reasons can you give for your rejection of Christ? He is the one whose day our fathers desired to see, and kings waited for. Prophets foretold his birth, and declared his work from times of old. And will you not believe? Will you not hear Moses and the prophets, nor Christ and his disciples? Then in vain would it be for me to try to persuade you to get religion: “For if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither would they one though he went from the dead.” Let me close by quoting to you the apostle Peter's words, Acts iii. 19-21: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heavens must receive, until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets, since the world began.”