ing the appellation of anti-christ on the Roman pontificate. The idea was first communicated by the Waldenses. But learned men were slow in deviating from the fathers. It was not till the last century that every iota of these prophesies was applied to the clerical empire, and the application supported by authentic history. To this empire they all refer with perfect identity, and they cannot be referred to any other.

Among the great and good men who have the fairest claim to originality in the discussion of these predictions are, our Joseph Mede and Dr. Henry More. Among the French reformed ministers, Chamier, Jurieu, and Claude, deserve particular consideration. -I mention them here, because they are mostly followed in the illustration of the subsequent prophesies. Providence having recently confirmed some of their comments, we may follow them with a degree of con. fidence which could not be done at the time they wrote.

It is now generally understood, that the prophesieg contained in the ten last chapters of the Revelation, are a continuation of the prophesies of Daniel ; and that Antiochus, who defiled the temple, and caused the daily sacrifice to cease for three years and a half, was an obvious type of anti-christ, who should defile the church for forty-two months, or twelve hundred and sixty years; reckoning here, as in the seventy weeks of Daniel, a year for a day. But we shall restrict our observations on this subject to the principal prophesies contained in the New Testament.

1. 2 Thess. ii. 1, 2, 3. “Now I beseech you, brethren,” says St. Paul, “by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means;" that is by any pretended revelation from the Spirit, or letter from the apostle; “for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and


that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." By the day of Christ is here meant, his coming in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel. By the falling away we learn, that the anti-christ was not to be an individual, but a head over the apostate church. He is called the man of sin, because his whole system of ecclesiastical polity is a gradation of tyranny, and an entire mass of corruption. He is ed, like Judas, the son of perdition, because, for the acquisition of wealth, he betrays the interests of his master, and brings upon himself and his empire everlasting destruction.

V. 4. “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God.” We have but to read the history of the popes to identify this prophetic character. The pontificate is enthroned in the temple or church of God, and has assumed the power of the Most High in dethroning kings, and in oxalting others to the regal dignity. It has blasphemously assumed the divine prerogatives to bind and loose in heaven, and usurped authority over the dictates of conscience, and the rights of private opinion.

V. 5. “Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things ?” He foresaw that a spirit of insubordination to the yoke of Christ, and a love of pre-eminence, would be excited in the church, and cautioned them to watch against it.

V. 6, 7. “ And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time : for the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” The imperial government hindered the bishop of Rome from exercising the sovereignty which he claimed; but when the Goths and others had divided the empire into about ten kingdoms, a way was opened for the pontificate gradually to extend its sovereignty, and unald its character.

[ocr errors]

V. 8, 9, 10. “Then shall that wicked," or lawless pontificate, “ be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy by the brightness of his coming : even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wenders; and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they beceived not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." The clerical domination obtained its influence by imitating the policy of Satan; some were seduced to submission by fair promises, and others were intimidated by cruel persecutions. Their high claims to universal sovereignty were supported by myriads of pretended miracles, and lying wonders. This mystery of iniquity, this deceivableness of unrighteousness, was masked under a semblance of sanctity, by which the apostate church was deceived and brought into subjection.

V. 11, 12. “ For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” We have here the sin and punishment of the apostate church. Having nothing of Christianity but the name, they loved not the plain apostolic preaching which struck at the root of every vice: they preferred those teachers who lectured softly on moral subjects, and in the style of the pagan sehools. At length, they believed not, or at least lived as though they believed not the truth. This was their sin; and God, by instructive justice, made it their punishment. After having quenched the Spirit, he abandoned them to the most deplorable superstition and error. They lived in the pleasures of pagans, believed every feigned miracle, and imagined that the priest could transact the affairs of their conscience with God. They did not love the yoke of Christ, and therefore he gave them up to the power of anti-christ, whom he will gradually consume by republishing the pure gospel, and totally destroy by the vengeance of his appearing. In this interpretation the primitive fathers nearly all concur, though they understood not the anti-christ, which seems to be the effect of pure and uniform tradition.

It should be remarked, that the whole of this prophesy is taken from Daniel's little horn, and mighty king, vii. 25. xi. 36. This will appear by comparing a few passages. “He shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws. The king shall do according to his will, and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every God, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of Gods.

II. The next prophesy we shall consider respecting the anti-christ, occurs in the first epistle of Paul to Timothy, iv. 1, 2, 3. “Now, the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypoerisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received with thanks: giving." The apostacy has already been discussed, and the doctrines of demons signifies the worship of saints and angels. The heathens termed their divinities demons, as appears from Acts xvii. 18. where the original is, strange demons; and the apostle seems to have used the heathen term because of the similarity between pagan and Christian idolatry. The text, however, seems to have been mutilated by the advocates of image-worship. Epiphanius cites the passage against some who worship the Virgin Mary; and after the doctrines of demons he adds, " for they shall be worshippers of dead men, saith the apostle, as in Israel also they were worshipped.* To give the divine sanction to worship so lucrative to the priests, they invented myriads of legendary tales concerning the miracles and wonders feigned to be performed at the shrines of the saints. By the propagation of these

* Advers. hær. 78. p. 1055, tom. I. ed. Petav.

les to deceive the credulous, and by cruelly persecuting, and frequently burning those who opposed them, they demonstrated that their conscience was seared with a hot iron. This professional bypocrisy they covered with the garb of continence and sanctity, and justified all their crimes by a boasted zeal for the glory of God. They abstained from lawful marriage, and some time ate nothing but bread for the space of forty days. The monks did this to attract the superstitious reverence of the populace, and the bishops imposed celibacy on the clergy, partly from the same motive, and partly because it enabled them to employ a multitude of poor priests at an easy expense. But it was prin. cipally alleged, that the priests having neither wives nor children to provide for, would be the less subject to the civil power, and the more devoted to the supremacy of the pope. After this manner, error combined with interest gained the ascendancy in the church; and the mystery of iniquity, which had long been working, at length boldly exalted itself above the commandments of God.

III. The principal prophesies in the book of Revelation respecting the anti-christian empire, are next to be considered. We shall begin with the two wild beasts described in the thirteenth chapter.

V. 1, 2. “ And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion; and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” The prophet Daniel saw four beasts ascend from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and represented the Babylonian empire; the second was like a bear, and represented the Persian empire; the third was like a leopard, and represented the Grecian empire. The fourth, which represented the Roman empire, was dreadful and terrible, and strong exceed

« ForrigeFortsett »