Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713): Rectifying the Papist idea of schism

Pierre Jurieu

Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713), a French Huguenot leader and grandson of the well-known Huguenot pastor Pierre Du Moulin, lived in extremely testing times. His lifetime was marked by great persecution of Protestants by Catholics in France. Like many other Huguenots, Jurieu ended up fleeing to the Netherlands, which at the time was a safe haven for Protestants in Europe, settling in Rotterdam, where he became pastor of the Flemish Walloon Church, the French-speaking Reformed Church in the Netherlands. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Catholic persecution of Protestants in France went rampant.

Four years later, in 1689, Jurieu published a work titled Lettres pastorales adressées aux fidèles de France qui gémissent sous la captivité de Babylon (Pastoral Letters addressed to the Faithful of France who are Groaning under the Captivity of Babylon), which was secretly circulated around France and elsewhere in Europe. The main thrust of these letters are an encouragement to Huguenots in France to persevere in the Reformed faith and not go back to the Catholic Church, offering many arguments and reasons not to do so. This was much easier said than done, of course, since their safety would have been secured if they were to return, and there were a host of persuasive polemical arguments from the Papists which convinced many Huguenots to return to the Roman Church. Throughout these letters, Jurieu addresses these polemical arguments, one of which we will consider below.

One of the stronger polemical arguments the Papists made, which convinced many Protestants to return to Rome, was that the Huguenots had broken away from the one and only true Universal Church, and that consequently they had excluded themselves from salvation.  In Letter 13 of Volume 1, there is a section in which Jurieu discusses this allegation and the Papist view of schism:

“[Breaking the unity of the Roman Church through schism] is a point which your converters [Papists who attempt to convert Huguenots back to Catholicism] continually repeat, and beat upon you. Schism, say they, is a hideous crime: schismatics are out of the Church; there is no salvation for them: and although the Church of Rome itself were corrupt, you ought not to break with her. Their modern writers who seem willing to soften the maxims of the Roman Church do nevertheless observe no measure on this subject, and on this point. They proceed so far as to maintain, that although it should be true that even the Church of Rome should be fallen into idolatry, we ought not to forsake her, and could not justly set up altar against altar…

They say, that even though the Church should fall into idolatry, we cannot be saved if we separate from it. And I say, although even the Church of Rome should have reason at the bottom, and were not idolatrous, and that we were out in our separation, we should not hazard our salvation by continuing as we are [i.e. by continuing as Protestants]. Men are everywhere well where they have Christianity and the marrow and substance of it; and it is a folly to imagine that the salvation of men depends upon the temper of their guides. It may be therefore that Luther and Calvin were mistaken, i.e. that the corruption of the Church of Rome was not great enough to oblige the faithful to go out of her: let us suppose that would have done better to leave things as they were, I do nevertheless maintain, that at this day you do not in any way hazard your salvation by continuing where they have placed you [i.e. in the Protestant Church]; because however it may be, you have Christianity in its integrity, you have it wholly pure and incorrupt. In every society where that is found, a man may be saved, after whatever manner it be formed. The idea which men have formed of schism for many ages past is the most false that can be imagined: but besides the falsehood of it, it is the most dangerous and cruel chimera that could be found. Every society would be Catholic Church to the exclusion of all others. The Church of Rome pretends thus far for herself. The Greek Church makes no less pretence thereto. He that goes out of this Church breaks the unity, and he that breaks it is no longer in the Church. Now, he who is no longer in the Church, is no longer in a state and way of salvation, whatever he say and whatever he do. Behold what they say; behold the chimera.

We must therefore rectify this idea of schism, according to the unity which we have given you. The unity of the Universal Church does not subsist within the bounds of one certain communion, nor in adherence to certain pastors, to the exclusion of all others: but in the unity of spirit, doctrine, sacraments, and evangelical ministry in general, i.e. of pastors declaring the truth of the Gospel. What must be done then to make a schism with respect to the Church Universal? He must renounce the Christian doctrine, the sacraments of the Church, and the Gospel ministry; that is to say, he must be an apostate or a heretic. But every society that goes out of another and greater society of which it was part, makes no schism with respect to the Church Universal, whilst it retains the doctrine, the sacraments, and the ministry of the Gospel: it goes not out of the Church because it carries the Church with it, and it carries the Church with it, because it carries Christianity with it. It carries, say I, the Church with it, in such a manner nevertheless, that it leaves it in the society which it leaves; for leaving true Christianity there, it leaves the true Church there also. And the advantage of being the Church, and of having Christianity, is a privilege which may be possessed entirely, and without prejudice to other Christian societies.”

Jurieu then goes on to distinguish between two kinds of schism: universal and particular schism. He defines universal schism as:

“the renunciation of the Universal Church, by renouncing her doctrine, sacraments, and ministry.”

In other words, universal schism is to break away from the Church entirely and become apostate or utterly heretical. He then defines particular schism as:

“when a man separates from a particular Church, be it for some point of doctrine, be it for some quarrel about discipline, be it for some personal differences of the guides among themselves.”

Jurieu mentions several such particular schisms throughout church history, arguably the greatest example being, of course, the schism between the Greek (Eastern Orthodox) and Latin (Roman Catholic) Churches in 1054. He also mentions schisms in the Latin Church during the later Middle Ages, that of Popes and Anti-Popes, the one seated at Rome and the other at Avignon. He then comes to the Reformation, which he classifies as one of these particular schism, and states:

“…in these last times a great schism has happened in the Latin Church, which is divided into three great bodies: the Papists, the Lutherans, and the Reformed.”

Jurieu argues that the problem with the Papist view of schism is that they confound these two kinds of schism, since they regard particular schisms (such as the Reformation) as universal ones, and hence consider such schismatics as apostates who are altogether excluded from salvation. He would go on to argue that though “peace is to be preferred before division,” nevertheless the separation was made “for reasons of some worth and value, i.e. because of corruption in doctrine and worship,” and since this corruption still persists in the Church of Rome, we therefore cannot return to her.

Jacques Abbadie (c. 1654-1727): The sense of our indigence is one of the greatest marks of our greatness

Jacques Abbadie

Tonight I came across this interesting discussion by the French Huguenot Jacques Abbadie (c. 1654-1727), in which he argues that man’s imperfections are, quite paradoxically, also an indication of his excellence. The main thrust I get out of this is that the consciousness of our imperfections reveals that we were made, to put it in simple terms, for “bigger things,” and herein consists our excellence. Read it for yourself, and think on it a bit. This is from his work Traité de la Verité de la Religion Chrétienne (Treatise on the Truth of the Christian Religion), vol. 1, chapter 13:

“Man, I confess, has his imperfections; his soul finds itself shut up within a very narrow compass: He sees himself confined on all sides, in the middle of an unlimited extent of space. He finds himself obliged to follow the condition of matter, which is much inferior to him in perfection. He perceived himself miserable and poor in the midst of prosperity and abundance. Nothing fills him; nothing satisfies him: He loathes everything, and desires everything. He is always seeking knowledge, and understands nothing perfectly. He admires, because he is ignorant. He has a curiosity to know, because he knows nothing. He is not only the sport of others, but in some manner his own. Equity and rectitude, with relation to him, are whatever his passions make them to be; and truth is nothing but what pleases him. His imperfections are great, and because they are great, they are not to be met with, but in an excellent being, and therefore serve better than anything else to show the perfection of man. This is what may easily be conceived with a little consideration and reflection upon ourselves.

Well, let those spaces be never so great which encompass me, I still find myself greater than they are. My body which is but an atom in comparison to the sun, is a colossus in respect to a mite. The sun which is a prodigious colossus with respect to me, is but an atom compared with that immense space, and those vast spheres wherewith it is itself encompassed. The greatness therefore or smallness of matter, does depend upon different respects, under which it is represented to us, or the different comparisons which may be made of it. It is my soul that makes those comparisons, my soul therefore has something more noble and great in it, than that whose greatness surprised me, or whose minuteness was too exquisite to be perceived by me.

Everything keeps its rank in nature; but man, who maintains his rank in the world, and knows it, is more perfect than all other [created] beings; and the narrower the space is which the soul is confined to, the greater subject of wonder is it; since by a particular prodigy, whenever it pleases, it draws together into the compass of an atom, heaven and earth, whatever we see of the immense spaces which encompass us, and all that lies beyond, out of our sight: It runs through all the parts of the universe, without any motion of its own, and that in a more amazing and wonderful manner, than if it moved itself. In the same simple undivided subject, it assembles together past, present, and future things, life and death, light and darkness, the most contrary elements, and most inconsistent qualities: And though it lies concealed, and (as it were) buried in a corner of the universe, it fetches in the universe to itself, when it pleases.

It is a surprising thing, I own, to see an intelligence so vast, subject to the laws of such a limited portion of matter, and a being so noble, wedded to the interests of a body which does not seem to have anything in common with it. And in this respect, methinks, it may be said, that it is most surprising to see the soul of man depending on matter, than separated from it; and that our life has something more astonishing in it than our death. For in fine, search as far as you please into the knowledge of the structure and constitution of the body, let the glandula pinealis be the centre of the motion of the animal spirits, or fix it in some other part of the brain; it is impossible there should be any true proportion between the motions of this gland, or this other part of our brain, and the thoughts of our soul; and though we should reason about it for ten thousand ages together, this agreement or proportion could never be found.

But is not this dependence of thought upon corporeal motion, and this dependence of corporeal motion upon thought, which are mutual occasions of one another, without any manner of proportion discoverable between them, is not this, I say, another wonder which ought infinitely to astonish us?

By this mark, I know that my soul was created: This is the character and seal of its dependence: And that it might appear the free production of an Understanding sovereignly free, it was necessary that this soul should depend upon matter, which is of a nature much inferior to it.

Moreover, of all the beings, we behold, man alone perceives his misery and wants; he is therefore the most perfect: For he must needs be of a more noble and exalted nature than other [created] beings, else he could not be miserable, since without knowledge, there can be no misery.

Besides, the mere privation of some good, is not properly indigence or want, but the privation of some good that seemed due. Cyrus whilst a shepherd, did not think himself miserable, because he was not seated on the throne: But the same Cyrus knowing himself to be of royal extraction, cannot be content except he reign.

What sort of being then is man, who is always poor and miserable, whatever degree of prosperity he enjoys? Why, he must necessarily be such a being whose excellence is no way proportioned to whatever we see. Wherefore the sense of our indigence is one of the greatest marks of our greatness.

Both our understanding and our heart, are (I confess) equally insatiable: The one is never tired with knowing, and the other never weary of desiring.  But that which occasions their extravagance in that respect, denotes their perfection.

The desire of knowledge, shows indeed that man does not know everything; that is, that he is not infinite; but it shows also that he may always be advancing in knowledge, and consequently, that his excellence is not limited in that respect.

It is the same case with the desires of man’s heart, which are perpetually renewed, and can never find anything capable of satisfying them. They show indeed that man does not enjoy all that is necessary to make him happy; but at the same time, they discover, that all temporal advantages are incapable of satisfying him; that he is above the world, and all the happiness the world can afford, and that no less than an infinite object is able to fill the vast capacity of his soul.

The admiration of the understanding is more wonderful than all he admires, and the desires of man are more noble than all the objects desired by him. That infinite thirst of our understanding tells us, that our excellence is on some sense unlimited; and the infinite appetite of our heart teaches us, that we may aspire to an infinite happiness. What we are ignorant of, humbles us; what we know, satisfies us; and that which we cannot attain to the knowledge of, does in some manner raise us higher than what we do know, and shows us that our soul shall not always continue in that low state it is now in; that it shall not always be taken up with those little interests and advantages, which are all its employs and concerns now, without the power of procuring it any true satisifaction.

It is a fault in covetous man, to be always desiring new additions of wealth; but it is a perfection not to be content with so inconsiderable a trifle as riches. Worldly-minded men are guilty of ignorance and blindness, and in that respect they sin; but properly speaking, they do not sin by being covetous, and pursuing their interest. They are to blame only for blindingly desiring what cannot satisfy them; but not for being insatiable after the possession of what they ought not to be contented with.”

Abbadie then, without offering an extensive discussion thereof (seeing that he says that he intends first to establish the existence of God in the subsequent chapters before doing so), offers some glimpses of what the perfection of man consists of, namely that man:

“…by a special privilege has the honour of representing the Supreme Being; which finds in itself some traces of that Knowledge and Wisdom it is obliged to ascribe originally to God… [man is] a being designed to collect the glory that streams from all created perfections, in order to reflect it back to their Great Maker…”

“[the perfection of man in this life consists…] …in the glorious state of virtue, regulating his desires by temperance, renouncing his passions, to practise the duties of piety, devoting the present to his duty, and gaining a sure title to the future, by his good use of the present; sacrificing his vicious desires to God, renouncing himself for the love of him who gave him all things, raising himself above time and the world by a sublime hope which carries him to far more solid objects than any time or the world can afford; and referring everything to the glory of God, as to the greatest and noblest end of all his thoughts and actions.”

Philippe du Plessis Mornay (1549-1623): Our doings can have no end to rest upon here, but only in the life to come

Philippe Du Plessis Mornay

Chapter 18 of De la Verité de la Religion Chrestienne: contre les Athées, Épicuriens, Payens, Juifs, Mahumedistes, et autres Infideles (Of the Truth of the Christian Religion, against Atheists, Epicureans, Paynims, Jews, Muslims, and Other Unbelievers) by the French Huguenot Philippe du Plessis Mornay (1549-1623) contains a discussion of man’s highest end, by no means identical to but reminiscent of Thomas Aquinas’ discussion of the beatific vision.

Mornay demonstrates the vanity of man seeking his highest good in the things of this world – in riches, honour, power and authority, in himself, in beauty, bodily pleasure, voluptuousness, sensuality, virtue, politics, earthly wisdom, and so forth. He then shows that God himself is man’s highest good and ultimate end, which though partially attainable in this life, is ultimately only attained in the life to come. In the excerpt below, which is from the end of the chapter, he argues along the lines of Hebrews 11:1 (“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”):

“And what is this faith in God, but a believing that our good lies in him? What is the believing, but the hoping for it? What is hope, but the desiring of it? What is the desire of it, but the not having it? And to be short, what is the continual belief of it here, but [a confirmation] that here we can neither have it nor see it? If we have not faith, what have we but ignorance? And if we have faith, what have we but only a desire and longing, considering that the greater our faith is, the more we despise these base things [of the world], and the greater our desire is, the more we hate ourselves, and the more earnestly do we love God. To be short, what is faith? Salvation promised. But we would [want to] see it. Again, what is faith? The way unto felicity. But we would [want to] possess and enjoy it. Look then what proportion is between that which is present, and that which is to come; such proportion is there between the hope which we have here (yea, even above the world and above ourselves), and the perfect and full fruition of the good which we seek to attain unto. But let us in a few words gather together what we have said heretofore. Whereas we seek for an end or resting-point, the world is made for man, man for the soul, the soul for the mind, the mind for a much higher thing than itself, and what else can that be but God? As for that which we understand here concerning God by our natural wisdom, it is but ignorance; and by our supernatural, is but belief; and belief makes not things perfect, but only moves the understanding. It follows then that our doings can have no end to rest upon here, but only in the life to come, which is the beholding and knowing of God. Again, if we seek the sovereign good, our appetites owe obedience to our will, our will to our reason, and the perfection of our reason is the knowing of God. And so our contentment of our will is our possessing of God. Now we possess not God, but so far as we love him; we love him not but so far as we know him: and neither can ignorance engender full and perfect fruition, but only a certain hope, which hope is accompanied by impatience even in the best of us. It follows therefore that we cannot enjoy our sovereign good, until we have come to our utmost end; nor have our full contentment, until we have full knowledge: that is, we cannot have it in this world, nor in man, which two cannot content the mind or satisfy the will of man, forasmuch as either of them both is a world of wretchedness: but though we have a double life, yet can we have our utmost resting-point and our sovereign good nowhere else but only in God and in the everlasting life.

Here I should declare what that felicity of man shall be, when he has come to his utmost resting-point. But who will be so rash as to open his mouth on this behalf, after him who has told us that neither eye has seen it nor heart can conceive it? And how should we know it here, being unable either to see it or to have it here? Now therefore in one word, let us be content with this, that all our desires shall be satisfied at that day, seeing they extend not but to the things that are, and that in God we shall at that day see, have, and know all things.”

John Calvin (1509-1564) on progress in the Christian life

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“I insist not that the life of the Christian shall breathe nothing but the perfect Gospel, though this is to be desired, and ought to be attempted. I insist not so strictly on evangelical perfection, as to refuse to acknowledge as a Christian any man who has not attained it. In this way all would be excluded from the Church, since there is no man who is not far removed from this perfection, while many, who have made but little progress, would be undeservedly rejected. What then? Let us set this before our eye as the end at which we ought constantly to aim. Let it be regarded as the goal towards which we are to run. For you cannot divide the matter with God, undertaking part of what his word enjoins, and omitting part at pleasure. For, in the first place, God uniformly recommends integrity as the principal part of his worship, meaning by integrity real singleness of mind, devoid of gloss and fiction, and to this is opposed a double mind; as if it had been said, that the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, in the cultivation of holiness and justice. But seeing that, in this earthly prison of the body, no man is supplied with strength sufficient to hasten in his course with due alacrity, while the greater number are so oppressed with weakness, that hesitating, and halting, and even crawling on the ground, they make little progress, let every one of us go as far as his humble ability enables him, and prosecute the journey once begun. No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the slender measure of success. How little soever the success may correspond with our wish, our labour is not lost when to-day is better than yesterday, provided with true singleness of mind we keep our aim, and aspire to the goal, not speaking flattering things to ourselves, nor indulging our vices, but making it our constant endeavour to become better, until we attain to goodness itself. If during the whole course of our life we seek and follow, we shall at length attain it, when relieved from the infirmity of flesh we are admitted to full fellowship with God.”

– John Calvin (1509-1564), Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.vi.5.

Henricus Siccama (1692-1746) on the role of faith in justification

Henricus Siccama

Question 35. What is now the means by which a sinner becomes partaker in the righteousness of Christ and therefore becomes immediately justified before God?

Answer: That is alone a sincere and unfeigned faith in Christ Jesus. Hab. 2:4 the just shall live by his faith’; Rom 3:22, 28; 4:5; 5:1; Gal. 2:16 ‘Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law.’

Question 36. But how are we justified by faith?

Answer: Not because of the worthiness of our faith, as if God justifies us because of it, as the Remonstrants would have it, and [as if] faith is here reckoned as a virtue and a remarkable good work, and therefore as the meritorious cause of the same [i.e. of justification].

Question 37. Does this [i.e. faith as a meritorious act] not run against Scripture?

Answer: Yes, because 1) We are nowhere told that we are justified because of our faith, but rather through and out of faith. Rom 3:30 it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.’ 2) If we are justified because of our faith, how can we then be told that we are justified because of the obedience of Christ and out of grace? 3) That faith here not be reckoned as a work, is apparent because the Scriptures set faith and works against each other. Rom. 4:5.

Question 38. How should faith here then be understood?

Answer: As a hand or instrument, whereby we grab and take hold of the righteousness of the Redeemer, hence the sayings ‘take hold of God’s strength’ Is. 27:5; ‘receiving Jesus’ Jn. 1:12; ‘receiving the gift of righteousness’ Rom 5:17 and Acts 26:18.

Question 39. By which analogy do you clear this up?

Answer: Of the beggar who would receive alms of the generosity of a rich man, to which he must stretch out the hand, in which case it [i.e. the hand] deserves nothing, but is only the means by which he receives the gift; or alternatively, of one who in the navigation of the sea capsizes and sees a plank, grabs hold of it, and hauls himself onto it, thereby to be spared.”

– Henricus Siccama (1692-1746), Kort Begrip der Waare Godtgeleertheit, Chapter XVI (On Justification)

Johannes d’Outrein (1662-1722) on the Reformed Church

Johannes d'Outrein

Tonight I was reading through some sections of the catechism of Johannes d’Outrein (1662-1722), titled Een Korte Schets der Godlyke Waarheden (A Short Sketch of Divine Truths), and thought this excerpt was worth translating into English and sharing:

Question 11. Where is the true church now to be found?

Answer: In the congregation where the marks of the true church are found.

Question 12. What are these marks?

Answer: Where the pure preaching of God’s word is, and the Sacraments are administered according to the institution of Christ – there is the external (i.e. visible) congregation in which those who believe and are converted constitute the true Church.

Question 13. And which is presently this congregation?

Answer: The Reformed Church.

Question 14. Do you then exclude [those of] other convictions from the true church?

Answer: No, if they do not err in essential points, if there is [held among them] the justification of sinners before God, etc.

Question 15. What do you hold of the Roman Church?

Answer: That it is apostate [‘afvallig’ in the original Dutch] and a multitude of carnal confessors, who make up the beast which we see in Revelation chapter 13, etc.

Question 16. Do you then exclude all who belong to the Roman Church from the true Church and hence from salvation?

Answer: We would like to hope the best of such who are simple under Popery and trust in Christ and his merit, but those who know the depths of Satan and reject the true doctrine of the reconciliation of sinners to God through the blood of Christ alone, there we cannot see much good of expectation. See Is. 45:22-24; Jer. 17:5.

Question 17. If the Reformed Church is the true one, is the true church then entirely new, because where was the church before the Reformation?

Answer: The true church was then in the captivity of the Spiritual Babel and was greatly obscured, though at all times there were those who clung to the true doctrine. See Song of Songs 6:10; Rev. 14:6.

Question 18. Did our forefathers have reasons to separate themselves from the Roman Church?

Answer: Yes indeed, because it was then so bastardized in doctrine and morals that one could not remain in such a depraved Church without running into the greatest danger of his salvation.

Question 19. But the Reformed Church is now also much deteriorated; does one for this reason also have no reason to separate oneself from it, as the Labadists do?

Answer: By no means, because 1) The deterioration is not so general, so that there are still many who serve God in truth. 2) The doctrine of truth is confessed purely among us, and as long as this happens there is no reason for separation. 3) One must also take care that that does not apply to us which is stated in Isaiah 65:5: ‘Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou’.”

– Johannes d’Outrein (1662-1722), Een Korte Schets der Godlyke Waarheden, Chapter XX (Of the Christian Church)

Last night’s nightmare, and Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) on the final overthrow of Islam

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I seldom get nightmares. Well, at least I seldom wake up remembering them. But this morning I woke up from a nightmare about as vivid as I’ve ever experienced.

With the ever-increasing rise of Islam and the inevitable threats which accompany it (despite what liberals and several Muslims have told me, even a transitory glance at the history of Islam reveals that from the beginning it was spread by the sword – contrary to Christianity, which was spread by the preaching of the Gospel), it has perhaps crept into my subconscious. Despite political propaganda trying to convince us that groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram are not truly Islamic, a comparison of the actions of such groups to the texts and history of Islam reveals great continuity. We all know of the mass slaughters of “infidels” in the Middle East which is happening even as you read this – all attended with the cry of “Allahu Akbar!”

Having been involved with several evangelism trips to the Indian community in Phoenix, Durban, many of whom are Muslims, and having spoken about these matters to a number of them, as well as to two Imams (one in Chatsworth, Durban, the other in Kimberley), few of them denied that a vital goal of Islam is, in the words of the Imam in Kimberley which I distinctly remember, “that the whole world submit to Allah, in whichever way this may be accomplished.”

I realize that not all Muslims are radical Jihadists, and my criticism of Islam does not, as Ben Affleck would have it, constitute racism. My desire is that Muslims around the world would come to a saving knowledge of Christ, as many have done despite hell itself rising up against them through persecution from their own people. The critique is against Islam as a system, which even some secular liberals acknowledge is a “motherload of bad ideas” (see link above).

I guess all the news of Islamic terrorism and mass-slaughters, as well as the ever-increasing Muslim populations in Europe and the rest of the western world through immigration and industrious reproduction (long gone are the days of Charles Martel!), has had some effect on my psyche, and hence the nightmare I woke up to this morning:

I dreamed that the Muslim population in the world had become so numerous, that almost all nations were now under Islamic control. The various Islamic terrorist groups all united in the cause of Jihad, and were plundering every city they came across to force “infidels” to convert, or pay the ultimate price: death. And so I dreamt that they burst into one of our church services, and lead us all to line up outside, kneeling on the ground. One by one they shot us in the back of the head, similar to the horrific scenes in the videos which have been circling the internet in recent years. As the gunman approached me, I recall calmly praying that the Lord’s will be done, that He may forgive my sins as well as the sins of those persecuting us, and that He may receive my spirit. Then came my turn, and I felt the cold steel tip of the rifle against the back of my head, heard the shot go off, and faded away into blackness, expecting to wake up in eternity. To my astonishment and, indeed, my disappointment, I woke up in my bed and realized that it was only a dream. My disappointment, of course, did not relate to the fact that I woke up in the real world where Islam does not dominate the whole world, but rather because in my dream I felt so ready to leave this world and be with the Lord.

I find it interesting that I should dream of such things when I only recently read in Jonathan Edwards’ (1703-1758) A History of the Work of Redemption about the overthrow of Islam, or, as he and many others called it back then, Mahometanism, as part of the eschatology which is yet to be fulfilled. While I do not agree with all of Edwards’ eschatology (he’s postmillennial, whereas I’m of amillenial persuasion), his discussion of Islam and its final overthrow reminded me that there is great comfort and hope in Christ, in the face of this threat.

Edwards speaks of two kingdoms that rose up against Christ after the days of Constantine the Great: the kingdom of Antichrist (a reference to the Roman Catholic Church), and the Mahometan kingdom (Islam). Edwards says that

“the remains of the Christians that are in those parts of the world, who are mostly of the Greek (i.e. Orthodox) Church, are in miserable slavery under these Turks, [and] treated with a great deal of barbarity and cruelty…” (p. 329)

He later goes on:

“Satan has ever had a dread of having his kingdom overthrown, and he had been apposing it ever since the day of Constantine the Great. To this end he has set up two mighty kingdoms of Antichrist and Mahomet, and brought in all the heresies, superstitions and corruptions, which there are in the world. But when he sees all begin to fail, it will rouse him up exceedingly. If Satan dreaded being cast out of the Roman Empire, how much more does he dread being cast out of the whole world!

It seems as though in this last great opposition which shall be made against the church to defend the kingdom of Satan, all the forces of Antichrist and Mahometanism and heathenism will be united: all the forces of Satan’s visible kingdom through the whole world of mankind. And therefore it is said, that ‘spirits of devils… [shall] go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them together to the battle of that great day of God Almighty’ (Rev. 16:14). And these spirits are said to come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet; that is, there shall be the spirit of Popery, and the spirit of Mahometanism, and the spirit of heathenism, all united. By the beast is meant Antichrist; by the dragon, in this book, is commonly meant the devil, as he reigns over his heathen kingdom; by the false prophet, in this book, is sometimes meant the Pope and his clergy, but here an eye seems to be had to Mahomet, whom his followers call the great prophet of God. This will be as it were the dying struggles of the old serpent, a battle wherein he will fight as one that is almost desperate.” (p. 375-376)

“But Christ and his church shall in this battle obtain a complete and entire victory over their enemies…” (p. 377)

“In this victory, the seventh vial shall be poured out. It is said of the great army that should be gathered together against Christ, ‘And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon’, and then it is said, ‘And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done’ (Rev. 16:16-17). Now the business is done for Satan and his adherents. When this victory is obtained, all is in effect done. Satan’s last and greatest opposition is conquered; all his measures are defeated; the pillars of his kingdom broken asunder, and will fall of course. The devil is utterly baffled and confounded, and knows not what else to do. He now sees his Antichristian, and Mahometan, and heathenish kingdoms through the world all tumbling about his ears. He and his most powerful instruments are taken captive. Now that is in effect done which the church of God had been so long waiting and hoping for, and so earnestly crying to God for, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true!’ Now the time is come.” (p. 377-378)