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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    III. Lathrop-Prophetic Drama Includes French Revolution

    In April, 1811, in his eightieth year, JOSEPH LATHROP, 43JOSEPH LATHROP (1731-1820) was born in Connecticut, and was a descendant of stalwart John Lathrop, pastor of the first Independent church in London. England, who came to America in 1634 because of his nonconformity. Joseph graduated from Yale in 1754, then becoming principal of a grammar school at Springfield while continuing his studies in theology. In 1756 he became pastor of the First Church of West Springfield, which post he filled with distinction for sixty-two years, until his death in 1820. An effective speaker and vigorous writer, a member of learned societies, he was the recipient of the degree of D.D. from Yale in 1791 and Harvard in 1811. He declined the professorship of divinity at Yale in 1793. He did, however, train about twenty young men for the ministry. Congregational minister at West Springfield, Massachusetts, gave two outstanding addresses on the prophecies of Daniel in relation to the “time of the end.” And the next year, at the organization of a foreign mission society, he preached a sermon in Springfield from Revelation 14:6, 7, entitled The Angel Preaching the Everlasting Gospel. He was expounding prophecy, however, as early as 1798. His notable Sermon on the Dangers of the Times, published that year, was preached in two places.PFF4 168.2

    1. THE PROPHETIC DRAMA OF Revelation 12

    Discoursing on the “grand prophetic drama” of the conflict between Christ and Satan (Revelation 12), Lathrop shows how the gross pagan idolatry of ancient times was supplanted by a modified papal idolatry, and this now in turn by a combination of “deism, materialism, atheism, and every species of infidelity.” The sun-clothed woman is the Christian church; the dragon, the pagan Roman Empire persecuting the church. The seven heads are Rome’s seven hills, and her seven successive forms of government, and its ten horns are the ten kingdoms into which the empire was divided. The fall of Satan in this chapter is, he says, referred by “the best interpreters” to the great change when Constantine was raised to the imperial throne. And Rome’s breakup only contributed to the spread of the gospel. 44Joseph Lathrop, A Sermon on the Dangers of the Times, From Infidelity and Immorality, pp. 1-10. That was his panoramic view.PFF4 169.1

    Lathrop sees the subsequent irreligion, immorality, and infidelity that spread over Europe from France (an allusion to the supposed Illuminati Conspiracy) as an artifice of infidelity, being fully equal in subtlety to popery itself. But this very development is directing attention to the Scripture prophecies of the downfall of papal dominance. And France, who had elevated and defended the Papacy, is now the chief instrument in its overthrow. When the devil came down with wrath, the voice sounded, “Wo to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea.” This is now being repeated. The unclean spirits, like frogs, these spirits of devils—the emissaries of atheism—have surely gone out into the world. 45Ibid., pp. 17-20. This feature is soon developed by other writers.PFF4 169.2


    Two sermons, delivered on the public Fast Day of April 11, 1811, discussed Daniel in relation to the time of the end. At the outset he declares:PFF4 170.1

    “Daniel and John have foretold a general apostacy in the Christian church, which would be accompanied with great oppression and persecution, and would continue 1260 years. Such an apostacy, you know, has already existed for many ages, and still exists under the name of popery. When 1260 years from its commencement shall have expired, it will then come to its end.” 46Joseph Lathrop, The Prophecy of Daniel, Relating to the Time of the End .... in Two Discourses (1811), p. 4. This period, he adds, is generally dated from Phocas, in 606, to 1866, or is more probably, according to another computation, to end in 1842.PFF4 170.2


    He continues by stating that the prophets declare there will be an increase of atheism and infidelity, “with an unusual corruption of morals, and with horrible wars among the nations” before the end of the Papacy. He refers to the willful king of Daniel 11:36, who denies God’s existence and seeks to abolish religion and disregards Christ, giving divine honor to a phantom god. Lathrop cites Bacon and Faber as saying that all this is fulfilled in the French Revolution. And he adds:PFF4 170.3

    “The French Revolution coincides with the time marked in the prophecy, ‘the time of the end;’ the time when we were to expect, and when many did expect some great change in the political state of Europe.” 47Ibid., p. 8; also pp. 8-10, where this is expanded.PFF4 170.4


    Then Lathrop gives a somewhat new turn: the kings of the North (Britain) and South (Spain and Portugal) will push at France, but the victorious France “shall enter into the countries and shall overflow and pass over.” He explains:PFF4 170.5

    “To understand this we must observe, that prophecy [also] foretells the existence of the mahometan apostacy, and its duration for 1260 years. History informs us, that this began about the same time with the establishment of popery, and consequently will come to its end about the same time. Both appear now to be fast tending to their fall. The Ottoman empire, as well as the papal hierarchy, is feeble and tottering.” 48Ibid., p. 12.PFF4 171.1


    The French emperor, “with his confederate papal kings,” will overrun Turkey, Palestine, and Egypt. But the “concluding catastrophe of this mighty Drama,” after the tabernacles of his palace have been planted in Jerusalem, will be the destruction of this Man of Sin by the brightness of the coming of the Lord. All this occurs perhaps thirty to fifty years hence (around the end of the 1260 years). Next he expects the fulfillment of Daniel 12:1 in the national restoration and conversion of the Jews and the “lost” ten tribes, and in the conversion of the heathen through world missions. 49Ibid., pp. 12-17PFF4 171.2


    In the second sermon on the same topic, Lathrop avers that prophecy shows that the Bible is inspired:PFF4 171.3

    “When, in the scriptures, events are foretold, which human sagacity could not have conjectured; and when we see in history the exact accomplishment of these events, we must conclude, that the predictions were uttered by divine inspiration, and the events brought to pass by divine providence.” 50Ibid., pp. 19, 20. The period in which we live is truly “momentous.” We should “realize our situation, learn our duty, and attend to the means of our safety.” But amid the “gloomy signs of the last days” there is a bright spot—a wonderful zeal to send the gospel to unenlightened nations. Then he adds: “From these appearances we must conclude that the end of popery and infidelity is swiftly advancing. There may be an awful conflict; but truth will prevail.” As Paul warns, the unparalleled trouble of the last days impends. The call sounds, “Come out of Babylon.” All this summons us to dedicate ourselves to God. 51Ibid., pp. 20-31. This likewise became a familiar rallying call.PFF4 171.4


    In his sermon The Angel Preaching the Everlasting Gospel(given in 1812, at Springfield, “at the institution of a Society for the Encouragement of Foreign Missions”), Lathrop declares that the message of this symbolic “angel” is followed by some tremendous judgment on Babylon, the papal church. It presents the everlasting gospel in contradistinction to the corruption of the age. And this angel symbolizes the ministers of the gospel missionary ministers to every nation—“flying,” or showing great diligence and activity. The purpose is to reclaim men from their idolatry and lead them to worship the supreme God, the Creator of all things. 52Joseph Lathrop, The Angel Preaching the Everlasting Gospel, pp. 4-6.PFF4 172.1


    A great apostasy from truth came into the Christian church, pure religion was succeeded by the worship of images, and Christian liberty was subverted by “spiritual tyranny and cruel persecution” for“1260 years.” But soon this tyrannical power will be cast down by the hand of God. The prophecy of the apostasy has been fulfilled. “There can be no doubt, but the time of its end is approaching.” The angel’s message is now being carried by missionaries. It warns of God’s judgment hour, when He will pour out His wrath on the corrupt inhabitants of the earth who will not respond to reform or attend to the messages of God’s grace. 53Ibid., pp. 7-13. God is even now calling men out of apostasy. Such was Lathrop’s mature conviction near the close of his long and fruitful ministry.PFF4 172.2

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