Page images

of those days." And the "great earthquake" of John's vision was to precede this sign in the heavens.

The Reformation of the sixteenth century began to cut short the days of tribulation; but some countries shut out the liberalizing influences of the Word of God and there the persecution continued.

Even as late as near the end of the seventeenth century, in 1685, France revoked the Edict of Nantes, that had granted toleration, and persecution raged as of old. The church was driven again to the desert. Speaking of the early decades of the eighteenth century, Kurtz says:

"In France the persecution of the Huguenots continued. . . . The 'pastors of the desert' performed their duties at the risk of their lives." -"Church History," Vol. III, p. 88.

There was severe persecution of the Moravians in Austria, in these times, many of the persecuted finding refuge in Saxony. It was in 1722 that Christian David led the first band of Moravian refugees to settle on the estates of Count Zinzendorf, who organized through them the great pioneer movement of modern missions.

But by the middle of the century, the era of enlightenment and the force of world opinion, in the good providence of God, had so permeated the Catholic states of Europe that general violent persecution had ceased. One incident will suffice as evidence of this.

The scene was in France, where alone, of all the Catholic states, there were any great numbers of Protestants. In 1762 a Huguenot of Toulouse, unjustly charged with crime, was put to torture and to death, under the pressure of the old persecuting spirit. Many Huguenots thought the persecutions of former times were reviving, and prepared to flee to Switzerland. But Voltaire took up the matter, and so wrought upon public opinion that the Paris parliament reviewed the case, and the king paid the man's family a large indemnity. This shows that by the middle of that century the days of any general persecution had ceased. In the nature of the

case, we may not point to the exact year and say, Here the days of tribulation ended.

From these times, then, we are to scan the record of history to learn if the appointed signs began to appear. As we look, we find the events recorded, following on in the order predicted:

1. The Lisbon earthquake, of 1755.

2. The dark day, of 1780.

3. The falling stars, of 1833.

4. General conditions and movements betokening the end. "There shall be signs," the Saviour said. We are to study the record of events, watching to catch the signs of the approaching end as earnestly as the mariner watches the beacon lights when he nears the longed-for haven on a dark and stormy night.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]


The scene of the great earthquake and tidal wave, Nov. 1, 1755, when in six minutes sixty thousand people perished.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]


"Lo, There Was a Great Earthquake "

THE first of a series of signs of the approaching end is thus described by the revelator:

"I beheld when He had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake." Rev. 6: 12.

The verses immediately preceding this scripture plainly describe the days of persecution of the saints of God, and the era of protest and reform that cut short that time of tribulation. Then this first sign appears. This is in harmony with Christ's statement that the signs of His second coming should begin to appear following the tribulation of those days

Just about the close of the days of tribulation occurred the Lisbon earthquake, as it is called, though its effects reached far beyond Portugal. Prof. W. H. Hobbs, geclogist, says of it:

"Among the earth movements which in historic times have affected the kingdom of Portugal, that of Nov. 1, 1755, takes first rank, as it does, also, in some respects, among all recorded earthquakes. . . . In six minutes sixty thousand people perished."-"Earthquakes," pp. 142, 143.


"Lo, there was a great earthquake," the revelator said.. It was indeed "a great earthquake," and great was its influence. In all the world, men's hearts were mightily stirred. James Parton, an English author, says of it:

"The Lisbon earthquake of Nov. 1, 1755, appears to have put both the theologians and philosophers on the defensive. . . . At twenty minutes to ten that morning, Lisbon was firm and magnificent, on one of the most picturesque and commanding sites in the world,— a city of superb approach, placed precisely where every circumstance had concurred to say to the founders, Build here! In six minutes the city was in ruins. . . . Half the world felt the convulsion. . . . For many weeks, as we see in the letters and memoirs of that time, people in distant parts of Europe went to bed in alarm, relieved in the morning to find that they had escaped the fate of Lisbon one night more."—"Life of Voltaire," Vol. II, pp. 208, 209.


The World Set to Thinking

This earthquake set men to thinking of the great day of God. Voltaire, the French philosopher, was "profoundly moved" by it, we are told. "It was the last judgment for that region," he wrote; "nothing was wanting to it except the trumpet." More than a month afterward, while still the perturbations of the earth were continuing, this skeptic wrote a poem upon the problem presented, voicing the sentiment:

"My heart oppress'd demands
Aid of the God who formed me with his hands.
Sons of the God supreme to suffer all
Fated alike, we on our Father call.
Sad is the present if no future state
No blissful retribution mortals wait,

If fate's decrees the thinking being doom
To lose existence in the silent tomb.
All may be well; that hope can man sustain.
All now is well; 'tis an illusion vain.
The sages held me forth delusive light,
Divine instructions only can be right.
Humbly I sigh, submissive suffer pain,
Nor more the ways of Providence arraign."

-"Poem on the Destruction of Lisbon," Smollet's translation; Works, Vol. XXXIII, ed. 1761.

« PreviousContinue »