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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    III. “Herald of Gospel Liberty” Stresses Prophecy

    The third journal that touched constantly on prophecy was the Herald of Gospel Liberty. It was launched in 1808 at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, by Elias Smith, one of the founders of the Christian Connection 16See page 31. Smith launched his editorial career with a quarterly. The Christian’s Magazine (1805-07); then, The Herald of Gospel Liberty (editor, 1808-1817). Next he edited The Herald of Life and Immortality (1819-1820), and, finally, in 1827-29, The Morning Star, and City Watchman, much like The Herald of Gospel Liberty. the second minister of the New England wing. It was dedicated to the preservation of the God-given religious liberties of man, just as the secular press fostered civil liberty. It also included the prophetic aspect, proclaiming the news of the Redeemer’s coming kingdom. On the front page of its initial issue Smith states: “A religious News-paper is almost a new thing under the sun; I know not but this is the first ever published to the world 17Herald of Gospel Liberty, Sept. 1. 1808, p. 1. Issued fortnightly, it was heavily editorial and reflected strongly the views of Smith. On Elias Smith see p. 179. The rarity of religious periodicals in those early years gave unusual popularity and influence to the few that were issued. And the emphasis of the Herald on prophecy gave this topic unusual weight with their readers.PFF4 144.2


    The very next issue launched a regular section called “The Preacher,” containing brief sermons on important themes, often on prophecy. In fact, “Sermon No. 1” was on the signs of the second coming of Christ. Of this transcendent event Smith says, “The coming of the Son of man has not yet taken place; but according to the prophecy [of the text, Luke 21:25, 26] the time is at hand. “These signs he proceeds to note-signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and on earth among men as well as on the seas. Noting first the “Signs in the Sun,” Smith locates them with plain words, based on personal knowledge, and asks a pointed question:PFF4 145.1

    “Without doubt this means something uncommon in the sun. This many can remember. In the year 1780, the sun was darkened, to the astonishment of thousands, & since that time something of the same kind has been seen. If this is not a sign of the second coming of Christ, why has this taken place at the time when several other signs mentioned by Christ are seen? 18Ibid., Sept. 15, 1808, p. 6. This phenomenon had previously been noted, as it occurred, by Samuel Gatchei and Joshua Spalding, and was anticipated by Edmund March in 1762. See Prophetic Faith, Vol. III, pp. 202, 212, 233.PFF4 145.2

    Continuing, he notes in the next column the inseparably connected sign in the moon, on the night following, together with its real meaning:PFF4 145.3

    “2nd. He [Christ] mentions signs in the moon. Several people have told me that the evening after the dark day, was unusually dark, though the moon was at the full. This seemed a second witness, with the darkness of the sun. This taking place immediately after the sun was darkened, is an awful testimony to the world that the coming of the Son of man draws near 19Ibid.PFF4 145.4


    The next celestial sign is forecast as soon to come. Here is the third statement:PFF4 145.5

    “Christ mentions signs in the stars.—Whether there has been any particular signs in the stars, I am not able to determine; but while there are so many other signs, we may expect them soon 20Ibid.PFF4 145.6

    This expression is noteworthy, in that, in 1808, Smith anticipated as coming “soon” what a whole battery of men shortly afterward began to proclaim as having been actually fulfilled in the unparalleled meteoric shower of November 13, 1833. This was seen all over the eastern half of North America, and even noted in Mexico, by Justice JosL de Rozas, and its prophetic significance emphasized by this writer to the south 21On De Rozas, see pp. 301-311. But Smith here anticipated this celestial phenomenon, just as in 1689 Drue Cressener anticipated the stroke against the Papacy “about the year 1800 22See Prophetic Faith. Vol. II., pp. 591-596.PFF4 146.1

    The Herald editor turns next to the “signs in the earth among men.” The turmoil among kingdoms, the wars and rumors of wars, and the consequent perplexity of mankind is noted, and the situation in Europe reviewed. Fifth, signs in the sea-great storms and destruction—were to come. But the joyful sign is that of the gospel to all nations, which was at last in process of proclamation. These signs, Smith believed, include also the return of the Jews to Canaan.PFF4 146.2


    Having thus covered the signs of the second advent, the writer turns to the second advent itself, and gives a terse summary of the tremendous scenes of that great day in their sequence:PFF4 146.3

    “If these signs of the coming of the Son of man are so important, how much more so must His coming be! When He comes, it will be to slay the wicked, overthrow every thing contrary to righteousness, raise the dead saints;—change the living ones, establish justice in the earth, fill it with the knowledge of God; reign on the earth one thousand years; and prepare the way for that which will take place at the end of the world 23Herald of Gospel Liberty, Sept. 15, 1808, p. 6.PFF4 146.4

    And this editorial exposition is immediately followed by the report of a “discourse on the Signs of the times” on July 24, 1808 (on the text “Watchman, what of the night?”), by Asa McFarland, of Concord, New Hampshire, who makes a declaration and asks the question here quoted:PFF4 146.5

    “Although mankind in general are wrapt in spiritual slumber, regardless of the portentous signs of these times; yet some precious souls are awake, and, waiting for the consolation of Israel, enquire of their Watchmen in the spirit of the text, Watchman what is the time of night? When will the deliverance and glorious state of the church commence? What do the signs of the times indicate? 24Ibid., n. 7.PFF4 147.1


    Numerous articles on prophecy, papal tyranny, persecution, and premillennialism marked the successive issues for years. For example, on February 1, 1811, a discussion appears on the seven-headed “dragon” of “usurped priestly authority/’ ever warring against Christ and the saints. The first beast of Revelation 13 is “usurped priestly authority revived after the days of the apostles,” a sevenfold apostasy. The second beast is priestly authority reigning in one party, and Smith implies that the symbol involves Protestant sectarianism 25Ibid., Feb. 1, 1811, p. 254. This is interesting, because this second beast begins to be more and more the subject of study and discussion. Again, in October, 1813, in Nos. 3 and 4 of a series called “Important Discovery,” the four world powers of prophecy-Babylonia, Persia, Grecia, and Rome-symbolized by the four parts of the great metallic image of Daniel 2, are paralleled by the four symbolic beasts from the sea in Daniel 7. The “stone” kingdom of Christ, growing in the earth since Christ’s day, is discussed in No. 5, in November. The portrayal closes with these words: “The way in which this stone is to grind the image, and become a great mountain and fill the whole earth, is described in the seventh chapter of Daniel, and will be terrible to the enemies of God and the Lamb. The day is not far off when these glorious and terrible things will take place, to the joy of the righteous, and the confusion of all who are enemies to this kingdom. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. Amen 26Ibid., Nov. 26, 1813, p. 546.PFF4 147.2


    In the same issue an article by “Elihu” declares that, since the Jews failed to grasp the prophecies concerning the first advent of the Messiah, so many current professors of religion, despite their boasted knowledge of the Bible, do not discern the times of the second advent. Then follows a series of discussions on Napoleon, one of which contends that the special 1260-yearera of the papal power is ending. Thus:PFF4 148.1

    “Unless we agree with some of late, that the bloody persecuting religion of the church of Rome, which they are censuring the French nation for abolishing, is the true religion of Christ, we must conclude that this twelve hundred and sixty years is about expired 27Ibid. A footnote reads, “Calculating a day for a year, according to the opinion of commentators in general.”PFF4 148.2

    Then the ten horn-kingdoms, under the leadership of Bonaparte, that are making the symbolic “whore” desolate, are noted, and the fact that the judgments of God are already falling upon her is stressed.PFF4 148.3


    Earlier, No. 37 in the section, “The Preacher,” emphasizes that the fourth beast of Daniel 7, which is Rome, is the same as John’s “beast” in the Apocalypse, with its seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads are the seven successive forms of Roman government—kings, consuls, tribunes, dictators, decemvirs, emperors, and popes. The ten horns are the ten kingdoms into which Rome was divided—such nations as are now known as France and England—when the pope, as “Christ’s vicegerent upon earth,” took over spiritual and temporal command at Rome. But the beast is now (in 1812) wounded in every head. The “gay woman,” astride the symbolic beast of Revelation 17, is the Roman hierarchy which manages the beast. Her garb represents the gay appearance of the popes, cardinals, clergy, and “all the sectarians.” She is Babylon the great, the mother of all churches, who wishes “a government to ride upon.” Her golden cup is full of abominations—erroneous creeds, pompous ceremonies, and false doctrines to which she has subjected mankind 28Ibid., Nov. 13, 1812, pp. 438, 439.PFF4 148.4


    The proximity of the terrible closing events, outlined as the fall of the Turks, the return of the Jews, preceding the earthly kingdom of the saints, is stressed in No. 6 of “Important Discovery.” Before Christ takes the kingdom, “things the most terrible will take place, as everything contrary to that kingdom must be removed.” Smith then makes this solemn forecast:PFF4 149.1

    “The present commotions in the world are the beginnings of sorrow to all who are opposed to the ‘kingdom of God;’ and we have reason to believe that the present shaking among the nations will never end until everything that can be shaken will be taken away, and that those things which cannot be shaken may remain 29Ibid., Dec. 24, 1813, p. 553.PFF4 149.2


    A later issue discusses the “Image of the Beast.” Pagan Rome and the papal likeness are contrasted with the true Christian church. For example: The Roman emperor was the Pontifex Maximus, receiving divine honors with prostration at his feet, and princes in purple assisting him. Similarly, the pope is the Pontifex Maximus, receiving divine honors and prostration at his feet, only with cardinals in purple to assist him. In contrast, the church has Christ as her high priest, and the author of her order and worship; and honor is duly paid to Him as the Son of God 30Ibid., Dec. 9, 1814, p. 649.PFF4 149.3

    In pagan Rome, in addition to their supreme god, Jupiter, there were lesser deities-including the queen of heaven, Saturn, Mars, Venus, and others-worshiped in special temples. Likewise in the Roman church, in addition to God there are lesser gods-the queen of heaven and the saints—to whom altars are erected and images dedicated. Then, too, as in Rome, there were temples to Jupiter and the various gods, including the queen of heaven and mother of God—and a pantheon for all the gods, with worship toward the East—so in Romanism these heathen temples and images were simply reconstructed and dedicated to their own gods, only with new names, and they built new temples and likewise worshiped toward the East 31Ibid., pp. 549, 550.PFF4 149.4


    Finally, on May 26, 1815, the Herald makes an appeal “To the Clergy and People of America.” It sums up the previous prevailing opinion of the New England clergy on the papal Antichrist in these forthright words:PFF4 150.1

    “For many years, the New-England Clergy, particularly the most learned among them, have, by preaching and in their publications, been engaged in describing to the people, the meaning of the words Anti-Christ, mystery, Babylon, the great whore that sitteth on many waters, the beast with seven heads and ten horns, the man of sin, & c.—words recorded in the New Testament. All these they applied to the Pope and Romish Clergy. They have not hesitated to represent the Pope as Anti-Christ, the scarlet whore of Babylon, covered with abominations. They clearly proved that he was the Beast mentioned in Revelation; that he had made the world drunk with his abominations; that his seven heads were seven hills on which Rome is situated; that his ten horns are the ten principle [sic] non-catholic sovereignties in Europe; and that his colour was scarlet because it was dyed in the blood of saints. In their prayers they called on the Lord for vengeance on the man of sin; and they represented, in their prayers, that the catholic religion was idolatrous, blasphemous, and diabolical, and evidently tending to the eternal damnation of millions and millions of precious souls. These things are facts which cannot be denied. 32Ibid., May 26, 1815, p. 685.PFF4 150.2

    This the older readers could all remember, and Smith reminds them:PFF4 150.3

    “The greater part of the people in New England now, from forty to seventy years old, can remember from their childhood, that these things have been preached and prayed for by the clergy where they have attended public worship 33Ibid.PFF4 150.4

    And now, the Herald says, that the stroke has been given by the French against that great false system—as “Napoleon, and his men, did that in three years which had been prayed for more than three hundred years”—many Protestant clergy have strangely turned and have begun to call Napoleon the Antichrist, the Whore of Babylon, Beast, and Man of Sin. And later, when the ancient papal order was re-established, they appeared to rejoice that the “venerable institutions” were restored. Smith roundly chides all such for their about-face, and their loss of spiritual perception.PFF4 150.5


    The Morning Star, issued at Boston (1827-1829), still echoed Smith’s emphasis on prophecy. For example, in a series called “The Preacher,” there is an extended discussion on the “Beast” of Revelation 13, Rome being the same as the fourth beast of Daniel 7; and Babylon, the mystery woman of Revelation 17, representing “Rome under its bishops 34The Morning Star, August. 1827, pp. 50, 51. Later Smith reprints from the Christian Messenger an editorial sounding the stentorian call to come out of Babylon, which is broadened to include more than Rome—the confusion of sects among the “orthodox 35Ibid., February, 1828, pp. 208-211.PFF4 151.1

    In summation, it may be said that this dominant note on prophecy occupied a determinative place in the thinking, writing, and preaching of an astonishing number of leaders in religious and civic life, as will soon be seen in detail. It was destined to grow into a veritable chorus of interpretive voices, and these early periodicals exerted a definite influence in this direction.PFF4 151.2

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