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Church of Thessalonica constituted a part of the elect of God. Mark, these were not of the literal seed, but Gentiles, who had “turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God,” (1 Thess. i: 9.) In the Epistle to Titus, we read, “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's ELECT.” The elect, according to 1 Pet. i : 2, are constituted such “through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” In Rom. ii : 5–7, we read:
“Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for ; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”
Here, we perceive, the carnal Jews who rejected Christ were themselves rejected of God and blinded ;" while the remnant, who believed on the Son of God, obtained the inheritance sought. In Romans viii., the Apostle, after speaking of those who were predestinated and called, as being justified and glorified, says,
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's ELECT? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us,” (vs. 31–34).
Most certainly there is no reference here to the unbelieving Jews; but to the followers of Christ, who were redeemed by His atoning sacrifice, justified by His grace, and made heirs of salvation. It is not to be denied but the Jews were God's ancient covenant people; and hence Israel, under the old dispensation, is spoken of as God's elect; but under the Gospel dispensation a new covenant is introduced, and he is no longer a Jew “that is one outwardly,” and consequently they are not God's covenant people, or elect, that belong to the seed of Abraham by literal descent; but “he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter,” (Rom. ii: 29). The partition wall, which excluded the Gentiles from an equality with the Jews in participating the favors of heaven, has been demolished; and under the new covenant, under a dispensation of grace, all are entitled to equal privileges, being made heirs of salvation through faith ; and to admit infidel Jews to inherit the promises as the elect of God, is to build again the partition wall, or (to change the figure) it is to strike at the root of the whole Gospel economy, and overturn the foundation of salvation by grace.
Now it is in reference to the elect of God under the present dispensation, and as recognized in the writings of the Apostles, that the days were to be shortened. With this view of the subject, we discover a propriety in shortening the days of tribulation on the elect; for this was the class that suffered the affliction, while the abomination of Dan. xi. 31, was SET UP,” or STOOD “ in the HOLY PLACE.” Had not the Lord cut short those
days, no flesh would have been saved, or, in other words, the whole church would have been exterminated from the earth.
Those days must, of necessity, have a given length, or they could not, with propriety, be said to be shortened. If a merchant, for example, should employ an individual in his service, and in their contract a specific time for his services should be agreed upon, it would be in their power either to lengthen or shorten that term of time; but without a definite number of days being specified, we can conceive of no propriety in the idea of either lengthening or shortening the period. And how a rational mind can entertain the idea of shortening an indefinite number of days, we are unable to comprehend, The word "shorten" is defined by Webster thus : “ To make short in measure, extent or time; as to shorten distance ; to shorten a road; to shorten days of calamity," (Matt. xxiv.) Shortened is defined thus : “ Made short or shorter ; abridged; contracted.”
But it is objected that there was, at that time, (A. D. 1779,) no destructive persecution, that would have exterminated the Church, had not providence interposed and cut short the days of affliction. But the word says, “Except those days should be shortened, then should no flesh be saved,” and we prefer to be. lieve God rather than man.
Again, it has been said the tribulation was shortened by the Reformation under Luther and his coadjutors, and that, just before its commencement, the Church became so far reduced as scarcely to number a hundred souls. But this position is not justified by facts; for
there were thousands of those persecuted heretics, as they were termed, scattered among the valleys of the Alps, and in other places, at that time. There has been as great affliction, and as malignant persecution since the Reformation, as before. The edict published by Charles V. against the heretics (1522) in that country (the Netherlands), caused the death of fifty thousand persons.*
The massacre that commenced on the eve of St. Bartholomew, August 24, 1572, resulted, within the space of a few days, as some have computed, in the death of ten thousand persons in the city of Paris alone.† For the space of thirty years this persecution continued to spread; and “it has been estimated that thirty-nine princes, one hundred and forty-eight counts, two hundred and thirty-four barons, one hundred and forty-six thousand five hundred and eighteen gentlemen, and seven hundred and sixty thousand of the common people" lost their lives. $ In England, thousands suffered most violent persecution. The persecution which commenced in Ireland, October 23d, 1641, occasioned the destruction of about fifty thousand persons within a few days. $ "A worse slaughter, if possible, was made among the natives of Spanish America, where fifteen millions are said to have been sacrificed to the genius of popery in about forty years."|| Thousands also have perished, by the same relentless hand of persecution, in other countries. In 1598 Henry, king of France, published the edict of Nantes,
* Good. Ch. His. p. 167. ^ Ibid. p. 175. ^ Ibid. p. 182. $ Relig. Ency. p. 927. || Ibid.
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THE LORD SOON TO COME.
which granted toleration to Protestants; but, in 1685, it was revoked, and a terrible persecution ensued.
But these days of affliction were to be shortened ; hence we find the governments of Europe giving toleration to dissenters, and breaking off all connection with the papal power. It was during Necker's administration in France, between 1776 and 1781, that Louis made many "reforms in the administration, abolished various feudal exactions and the practice of torture. He also extended freedom of worship to the Protestants."*
"In Austria, Maria Theresa made very important improvements for the benefit of her wide dominions. In 1776, she abolished the torture in the hereditary states; and from 1774 to 1778, her attention was occupied with the establishment of a general system of popular education. Various salutary regulations were enforced, touching the temporalities of the clergy; and in Italy the arbitrary power of the Inquisition was circumscribed within narrow limits.”+ * In 1779, toleration was granted to dissenters in England, as the following extract will show:
“After repeated applications for relief, rendered unsuccessful by the formidable and decided opposition on the Episcopal bench, the cause seemed to be set forever at rest, at least, till all those bishops and nobles had slept with their predecessors and their fathers. The determination of the English peers was not like the laws of the Medes and Persians, which could not be altered. In the space of only a few years, unex
* White's His. p. 444. † Ibid. 458.