The United States in the Light of Prophecy



FROM the facts thus far elicited in this argument, we have seen that the government symbolized by the two-horned beast must be some government distinct from the powers of the Old World, whether civil or ecclesiastical; that it must arise this side the Atlantic; that it must be seen coming into influence and notoriety about the year 1798; that it must rise in a peaceful manner; that its progress must be so rapid as to strike the beholder with as much wonder as the perceptible growth of an animal before his eyes; that it must be a republic; that it must exhibit before the world, as an index of its character, and the motives by which it is governed, two great principles in themselves perfectly just, and innocent, and lamb-like; and that it must perform its work in the present century. USLP 79.1

And we have seen that of these eight specifications, just two things can be said: first, that they are all perfectly met in the history of the United States, thus far; and secondly, that they are not met in the history of any other government on the face of the earth. Behind these eight lines of defense, therefore, the argument lies impregnably intrenched. USLP 79.2

And the American patriot, he who loves his country, and takes a just pride in her thus-far glorious record and noble achievements, needs an argument no less ponderous and immovable, and an array of evidence no less clear, to enable him to accept the painful conclusion that the remainder of the prophecy also applies to this government, hitherto the best the world has ever seen; for the prophet immediately turns to a part of the picture which is dark with injustice, and marred by oppression, deception, intolerance, and wrong. USLP 80.1

After describing the lamb-like appearance of this symbol, John immediately adds, “And he spake as a dragon.” The dragon, the first link in this chain of prophecy, was a relentless persecutor of the church of God. The leopard beast which follows, was likewise a persecuting power, grinding out for 1260 years the lives of millions of the followers of Christ. The third actor in the scene, the two-horned beast, speaks like the first, and thus shows himself to be a dragon at heart; “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” and actions are framed. This, then, like the rest, is a persecuting power; and it is for this reason alone that any of them are mentioned in prophecy. God’s care for the church, his little flock, is what has led him to give a revelation of his will, and point out the foes with whom they would have to contend. To his church, all the actions recorded of the dragon and leopard beast relate; and in reference to the church, therefore, we conclude that the dragon voice of this power is uttered. USLP 80.2

The “speaking” of any government must be the public promulgation of its will on the part of its law-making and executive powers. Is this nation, then, to issue unjust and oppressive enactments against the people of God? Are the fires of persecution, which in other ages have devastated other lands, to be lighted here also? We would fain believe otherwise; but notwithstanding the pure intentions of the noble founders of this government, notwithstanding the worthy motives and objects of thousands of Christian patriots to-day, we can but take the prophecy as it reads, and expect nothing less than what it predicts. John heard this power speak; and the voice was that of a dragon. USLP 81.1

Nor is this so improbable an issue as might at first appear. The people of the United States are not all saints. The masses, notwithstanding all our gospel light and gospel principles, are still in a position for Satan to suddenly fire their hearts with the basest of impulses. This nation, as we have seen, is to exist to the coming of Christ; and the Bible very fully sets forth the moral condition of the people in the days that immediately precede that event. Iniquity is to abound, and the love of many to wax cold. Evil men and seducers are to wax worse and worse. Scoffers are to arise, saying, Where is the promise of his coming? The whole land is to be full of violence as it was in the days of Noah, and full of licentiousness as in the city of Sodom in the days of Lot. And when the Lord appears, faith will scarcely be found upon the earth, and those who are ready for his coming will be but a “little flock.” Can the people of God expect to go through this period, and not suffer persecution? No. This would be contrary to the lessons taught by all past experience, and just the reverse of what we are warranted by the word of God to expect. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” If ever this was true in the history of the church, we may expect it to be emphatically so when, in the last days, the world is in its aphelion as related to God, and the wicked touch their lowest depths of iniquity and sin. USLP 81.2

Let, then, a general spirit of persecution arise in this country, and what is more probable than that it should assume an organized form? Here the will of the people is law. And let there be a general desire on the part of the people for certain oppressive enactments against believers in unpopular doctrines, and what would be more easy and natural than that such desire should immediately crystallize into systematic action, and their oppressive measures take the form of law? Then we have just what the prophecy indicates. Then is heard the voice of the dragon. USLP 82.1

And there are elements already in existence which furnish a luxuriant soil for a baleful crop of future evil. But a few years ago three and a half millions of human beings were held in our country in a state of abject bondage, deprived of every vestige of freedom and every trace of manhood. But why refer to slavery, it may be asked, since it has already become a thing of the past? Slavery, to be sure, on the ground of political expediency, has been abolished. For the time being, the ballots and bayonets of its opponents have out-numbered those of its partisans. But has this changed the disposition by which it has heretofore been fostered? Has it converted the South? Have they been brought to look upon it as an evil which should be given up on account of its own intrinsic wrong? We would that we could answer these questions in the affirmative. But there are acts too patent to be denied, which show that the virus of this great iniquity still rankles in the body politic; that the system of slavery has been given up by the people of the South simply as a matter of necessity; that if they had the power they would re-instate it again though they should rend and ruin the Republic in their attempt; and hundreds of thousands in the North would sympathize with them in the movement, and second them in their efforts. The disease is driven from the surface, but it is not cured. It may be a source of serious trouble hereafter. USLP 83.1

Political corruption is preparing the way for deeper sin. It pervades all parties. Look at the dishonest means resorted to to obtain office, the bribery, the deceptions, the ballot-stuffing. Look at the stupendous revelations of municipal corruption just disclosed in New York city: millions upon millions stolen directly and barefacedly from the city treasury by its corrupt officials. Look at the civil service of this government. Speaking on this point, The Nation of Nov. 17, 1870, said: — USLP 84.1

“The newspapers are generally believed to exaggerate most of the abuses they denounce; but we say deliberately, that no denunciation of the civil service of the United States which has ever appeared in print has come up as a picture of selfishness, greed, fraud, corruption, falsehood, and cruelty, to the accounts which are given privately by those who have seen the real workings of the machine.” USLP 84.2

Enumeration is here unnecessary. Enough crops out in every day’s history to show that moral principle, the only guarantee in a government like ours for justice and honesty, is sadly wanting. USLP 84.3

And evil is also threatening from another quarter. Creeping up from the darkness of the dark ages, a hideous monster is intently watching to seize the throat of liberty in our land. It thrusts itself up into the noonday of the nineteenth century, not that it may be benefited by its light and freedom, but that it may suppress and obscure them. The name of this monster is Popery; and it has fixed its rapacious and bloodthirsty eyes on this land, determined to make it its helpless prey. It already decides the election in some of our largest cities. It controls the revenues of the most populous State in the Union, and appropriates annually hundreds of thousands of dollars raised from Protestant taxes to the support of its own ecclesiastical organizations, and to the furtherance of its own religious and political ends. It has reached that measure of influence that it is only by a mighty effort of Protestant patriotism that measures can now be carried, against which the Romish element combines its strength. And corrupt and unscrupulous politicians stand ready to concede to its demands to secure its support, for the purpose of advancing their own ambitious aims. Rome is in the field with the basest and most fatal intentions, and with the most watchful and tireless energy. It is destined to play an important part in our future troubles; for this is the very beast which the two-horned beast is to cause the earth and them that dwell therein to worship, and before whose eyes it is to perform its wonders. USLP 84.4

And in our own better Protestant churches there is that which threatens to lead to most serious evils. On this point one of their own popular ministers, who is well qualified to speak, may testify. A sermon by Charles Beecher contains the following statements: — USLP 85.1

“Our best, most humble, most devoted servants of Christ are fostering in their midst what will one day, not long hence, show itself to be the spawn of the dragon. They shrink from any rude word against creeds with the same sensitiveness with which those holy fathers would have shrunk from the rude word against the rising veneration of saints and martyrs which they were fostering.... The Protestant evangelical denominations have so tied up one another’s hands, and their own, that, between them all, a man cannot become a preacher at all, anywhere, without accepting some book besides the Bible.... And is not the Protestant church apostate? Oh! remember, the final form of apostasy shall rise, not by crosses, processions, baubles. We understand all that. Apostasy never comes on the outside. It develops. It is an apostasy that shall spring into life within us; an apostasy that shall martyr a man who believes his Bible ever so holily; yea, who may even believe what the creed contains, but who may happen to agree with the Westminster Assembly that, proposed as a test, it is an unwarrantable imposition. That is the apostasy we have to fear, and is it not already formed? ... Will it be said that our fears are imaginary? Imaginary? Did not the Rev. John M. Duncan, in the years 1825-6, or thereabouts, sincerely believe the Bible? Did he not even believe substantially the confession of faith? And was he not, for daring to say what the Westminster Assembly said, that, to require the reception of that creed as a test of ministerial qualification was an unwarrantable imposition, brought to trial, condemned, excommunicated, and his pulpit declared vacant? There is nothing imaginary in the statement that the creed-power is now beginning to prohibit the Bible as really as Rome did, though in a subtler way. USLP 86.1

“Oh! woeful day! Oh! unhappy church of Christ! fast rushing round and round the fatal circle of absorbing ruin! ... Daily does every one see that things are going wrong. With sighs does every true heart confess that rottenness is somewhere; but, ah! it is hopeless of reform. We all pass on, and the tide rolls down to night. The waves of coming conflict which is to convulse Christendom to her center are beginning to be felt. The deep heavings begin to swell beneath us. ‘All the old signs fail.’ ‘God answers no more by Urim and Thummim, nor by dream, nor by prophet.’ Men’s hearts are failing them for fear and for looking after those things that are coming on the earth. Thunders mutter in the distance. Winds moan across the surging bosom of the deep. All things betide the rising of that final storm of divine indignation which shall sweep away the vain refuge of lies.” USLP 87.1

In addition to this, we have spiritualism, infidelity, socialism, and free-love, the trades unions, or labor against capital, and communism, all assiduously spreading their principles among the masses. These are the very principles that worked among the people, as the exciting cause, just prior to the terrible French revolution of 1789-1800. Human nature is the same in all ages, and like causes will surely produce like results. These causes are now all inactive operation; and how soon they will culminate in a state of anarchy, and a reign of terror as much more frightful than the French revolution as they are now more widely extended, no man can say. USLP 87.2

Such are some of the elements already at work; such the direction in which events are moving. And how much further is it necessary that they should progress in this manner, before an open war-cry of persecution from the masses, against those whose simple adherence to the Bible shall put to shame their man-made theology, and whose godly lives shall condemn their wicked practices, would seem in nowise startling or incongruous? USLP 87.3

But some may say, through an all-absorbing faith in the increasing virtue of the American people, that they do not believe that the United States will ever raise the hand of persecution against any class. Very well. This is not a matter over which we need to indulge in any controversy. No process of reasoning, nor any amount of argument, can ever show that it will not be so. We think we have shown good ground for strong probabilities in this direction; and we shall present more forcible evidence, and speak of more significant movements hereafter. As we interpret the prophecy, we look upon it as inevitable. But the decision of the question must be left to time. We can neither help nor hinder its work. That will soon solve all doubts and correct all errors. USLP 88.1