« ZurückWeiter »
expressed by the proposition of millions Anti-Christ as well as of Christ, we may of millions to unity. Supposing, on the say, "he was so named of the angel, becontrary, that these are true prophecies, fore he was conceived in the womb" of and that they all have been fulfilled in some time. Every member of " the man of sin" particular individual, it would be equally was written in this book-with the feaimprobable that they should all be capable tures of his countenance, the measure of of being applied to any other than he to his stature, and the place of his residence, whom they were intended to refer, and his principles of action and plans of opeproportionally certain that the person in ration, and blessed be God, the period of whom they were so fulfilled, was the per- his existence and the certainty of his deson of whom they were foretold. Thus we struction. We are not surprised at the identify the long-promised Saviour. We fact, that in many cases, infidelity has are convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was been entirely abandoned, after comparing he that should come, and we are forbid- these prophetic testimonies, with the den to look for another. And in the same facts of history. It was a saying of manner we discover the person and sys- Chief Justice Hale, that if a man on tem of Anti-Christ. The particulars trial for his life, was identified by as which relate to this, are almost, perhaps many and as clear marks as those which quite, as numerous and minute as the apply to the Pope and Church of Rome, other, and they are all realized in the sys- he should not have the least scruple in tem of Popery. It is clearly foretold that passing sentence of death upon him. such a power as that of the Pope should Professor Gaussen declares—" that Rome be exercised in the Christian church, is the Babylon of St. John, the Pope the and should authorize and establish pre- Man of Sin of Paul, and the Popedom cisely such doctrines and practices as are the little Horn of Daniel-is a doctrine publicly taught and approved in the Pa- professed by the church of Christ for pal church. It is not only foretold that 1200 years, and never disputed, but in such a power should be exercised, but the times of unbelief and lukewarmness." place where and the persons by whom it The strength of the argument hence should be exercised, are also pointed out. derived, will be in proportion to the numThe time also is signified when it should ber of the particulars on which it is arise, and how long it should prevail, founded, and the object of the present upon the expiration of which term it article, is to bring into one view, and in shall be destroyed for evermore. These as brief a space as possible, the whole predictions are so plain that, was not the testimony of the prophetic Scripturescontrary undeniable, they might seem to thus furnishing to the eye of our readers be penned after the event, and to describe a full length portrait of the system of things past rather than things to come. Romanism. In common with all other
Some of the most eminent, among that writers, the author of this article would class of commentators, who have hesitat- acknowledge Bishop Newton as his mased to apply these prophecies to this sys- ter in this attempt at historic painting. tem, have with candour acknowledged, The main outlines were long since drawn that “there are many striking coinci- by his hand. But with the lapse of near dences between the prophetic characters a century since his time, many facilities of the great apostasy, and the avowed have been added to those who pursue tenets of Popery.'
A closer resem- his art, and of these advantages, the preblance than that which here appears, sent writer deems it necessary to avail would not be expected between the por- himself. trait of the most skilful artist and the
The first passage to which our attenframe and features of the living man. tion should be directed, is that of St. The whole mystery of iniquity was naked Paul, in 1 Timothy iv. "Now the Spi
“ and open to the eye of God, before it rit speaketh expressly, that in the latter began to work in the sight of men. Of time some shall depart from the faith,
giving heed to seducing spirits and doc• Whitby and Bloomfield on 2 Thess. ii. trines of devils, speaking lies in hypocri
sy, having their consciences seared with tian dispensation, and that the expresa hot iron; forbidding to marry and com- sion here is used in this restricted manding to abstain from meats, which sense, is proved by the fact that Daniel God hath created to be received with in the parallel passage affixes this aposthanksgiving, by them that believe and tasy to the period of the little horn, or of know the truth. For every creature of Anti-Christ, which was to arise during God is good and nothing to be refused, if the latter part of the last of the four it be received with thanksgiving; for it is kingdoms, and to continue for a time and sanctified by the word of God and prayer. times and half a time. The expression If thou put the brethren in remembrance in the text is the same used in other passof these things, thou shalt be a good mi- ages of the Epistles, where the scope is nister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in evidently and exclusively prophetic of the words of faith and of good doctrine, distant periods and events. whereunto thou hast attained."
It follows, therefore, that this is a proIt is evident that here Timothy is phecy not derived merely from the page required to keep in remembrance both of the Old Testament, but dictated also the principles of truth he affirmed, and by the apostle's own inspiration, not only the perversions of sound doctrine which announced by Daniel who spake as he he predicts. Let us first then remark the was moved by the Holy Spirit, but conprediction itself; and secondly, ascertain, firmed by Paul according to the wisdom if possible, its application. We say it is given unto him.” a prediction. It has been doubted whe- This, then, is a prophecy-and where ther the last times refers to any other than are we to look for its fulfilment? Some the first age of the Gospel, and therefore, have supposed that the words have reit has been supposed that the language of spect to what was speedily to happen, the apostle is but a protest against the and which in a comparatively short time mystery of iniquity which had even then did happen, as the destruction of Jerusabegun to work. Yet even upon this sup- lem, and the prevalence of the Gnostic position it is a prediction still--for the heresy. But this is admitted to be liable apostle refers to the errors in question, as to insuperable objections, and is almost having been “ expressly” foretold by universally abandoned. The advocatest
the Spirit," before the last times" of this view themselves, though sustainhad begun—and by reference to the Old ing their individual opinions with abunTestament, we are able to identify the dant learning, have not been able to adopt place where it is written. “Daniel hath any one harmonious and consistent apforetold the worship of new demons or plication of the whole. Their scheme, demigods ;” (ix. 38) declaring that this iherefore, must fail, for their witness worship should be accompanied with a agrees not together. It is true, that even prohibition of marriage, and that this in the apostle's days, this mystery of inworship should take place in the latter iquity began to work, and hence a refertimes. The resemblance and identity of ence to some of its features may be found the two passages, are not indeed so evident in some of the Epistles which are not to the superficial reader of our transla- prophetic. Hence it was necessary for tion ; but the researches of the learned 'Timothy to put his brethren in rememhave left no room to doubt that the one is brance of the great principles of truth and the original to which the other refers. duty, which were even then likely to be
But, indeed, the supposition above no- compromised and adulterated. But the ticed, is not capable of support. The full development of the system of error phrase, “the last times,” embraces the referred to, was, doubtless, not to be witwhole period of the dispensation—s that nessed till a much later period—though this might be a prophecy of that which the warning was to be given before it was to come, as well as a protest against came to pass, that Christians might be that which was already revealed. Nay, the “ last times” is an expression often confined to the latter ages of the Chris
• Bloomfield. + Hammond and Whitby.
incited to watch its approach, and if pos- This is indeed a painful conclusion, sible, counteract its influence; or that for it involves a most serious accusation when it was come to pass, they might against the principles and practices of a believe the warning which had been given multitude of our fellow-creatures, whom to them.
no man can number-even of those who Some have adopted an opposite ex- have professed the faith, and prophesied treme, and supposed* that it has never in the name of the Lord. But the truth yet been, though certainly to be fulfilled. of God must be confessed, without reBut it would seem as if there were very spect to the persons of man. It is not little either of necessity or authority for uncharitable feeling, but rather undeniait. The experience of the Church' has ble facts that lead us to the conclusion. witnessed to the fulfilment of the pro- Of course, the fact is denied by all phecy, in systems already established, those professedly Christian divines, who and the teaching of the Church forbids are biased in favour and pledged to the us to look for any further fulfilment than support of the system, whose official chathat which shall be afforded by their final racter and ecclesiastical pretensions are overthrow. Bloomfield admiis ihat it is involved (though many of them have exonly within the last half century,” that hibited a zeal and sincerity worthy of a this has had the support of " eminent purer faith.) It has often been question. expositors." The primitive Christians, ed by many of those who in this great we are told, were wont 10 pray for the controversy are on our part.
But we peace and prosperity of the Roman em- have seen the difficulties in which they pire, because they were warned that im- are entangled in consequence. mediately upon its dissolution, the man Ignorance of facts and tenderness of of sin was to be revealed. So that, “ if feeling have no doubt occasioned some of tradition hath any authority, there is the differences of opinion which have none that hath a better title to be es- prevailed among Protestant divines on teemed apostolical.” Nay, if we are this subject. A lurking partiality for to be called to “union, upon the prin- many of the peculiarities of the Romish ciples of the Reformation,” we must church, and a deep, rooted antipathy to begin, by adopting the received opinion opposing errors, have induced some to of all the founderst of the Protestant “speak gently of our sister's fall," and churches that Anti-Christ is already long obliged them to apply to something else, since come, and is even now in reality, the stern and appalling denunciations of if not in appearance, hastily approach- the apostles and prophets.* ing his final destruction.
But notwithstanding the partial discreIf this opinion prevail over the other pancy which has prevailed, and which two, it remains, that the ful6lment of the
on every subject short of actual demonprophecy has been realized either in stration was to be expected—we may apMohammedism or Popery ; but the for- peal for support of our own convictions mer is generally admitted to be untenable, io a vast preponderance of testimony, because both the origin and character of from the most unexceptionable sources. the eastern imposture fail to correspond The mild and tolerating Tillotson asserts with the description of this apostasy. It that this passage contains “an exact deremains, therefore, that we notice the scription of that great apostasy, which fulfilment of the prediction, in the deep- has prevailed in the western branch of ly rooted and wide spread corruptions of the Christian church.”+ Bishop NewChristian doctrines and moral duties, ton, liberal to a fault in his religious opiwhich authentic history and accurate ob- nions, has vindicated this interpretation servation enable us to discover in the at great length and in a masterly manner. system of the Romish church.
This is true of the Oxford Tracts. See Fa• Bloomfield.
ber's Provincial Letters, and Cunninghame + See Literalist, vol. 2, Cunninghame's Po- on Anti-Christ, p. 20, 21. litical History, Pref. p. 8.
Works, 8vo. Ed. vol. iv. p. 130. 3
And Thomas Scott, than whom no man apostasy may be either total or partial, is more venerated in the Christian world, when we renounce the whole, or deny as a master in Israel, who regarded not some principal or essential part of it. the persons of men, nor indulged his own The Jews never renounced the true preconceived opinions, but earnestly God, yet the idolatry of Ahaz is termed sought and boldly taught the way of God his apostasy. And so may it be called in truth, observes,* that the merest in the Christian church, when men wor"smatterer in ecclesiastical history must ship God by an image or representative, know what corruption of Christianity or worship other beings beside the true most entirely accords to this description. God, or pray to other than the one MeThe Judaizing teachers and the Gnostics diator between God and man. This is and others, contended indeed for some of apostasy from the faith. It is rebellion these superstitions :—but it was reserv- against God and Christ, it is renouncing ed for the Church of Rome fully to prove them in effect—though not in profession. the truth of the Sacred Scriptures, by And certainly the Romish church authoaccomplishing these predictions, in their rizes and practises the same defection as most detestable enormities.” And so we that of the Israelites in the worship of may add, that among the followers of images, the adoration of the host, the inMahomet, and in most of the Oriental vocation of saints and angels, the oblachurches, some features of this apostasy tion of prayers and praises to the Virgin have appeared and some harm of its in- Mary, as much or more, than to God fluence been felt; but it was left for the blessed for ever. Church of Rome to exemplify all its It is added, that they shall give heed to characteristic traits, and to develop all its seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. fearful capabilities. Bishop White, also, By this it is meant not merely that his who is acknowledged by all to have been apostasy shall be the work of evil spirits a man of exemplary moderation, ex- -which is a matter of course, in regard pressest his " full persuasion that the Ro- to this and every other form of wickedmish doctrine was the very matter pro- ness. It is rather to be understood of the phesied of in Scripture, as that which matter of the apostasy than its authors. should be set up in the Christian church.”. Spirits are supposed to be the same as
Having thus ascertained the scope of doctrines, as it is written, believe not every this passage in general, we may proceed spirit. The word seducing, too, may to consider the meaning of its particular
mean erroneous or idolatrous. These erexpressions.
roneous doctrines are further explained to What, then, is it that the Spirit is said be doctrines of devils—but it should raby St. Paul to " speak expressly?” The ther be demons, meaning here, as in some result foretold is ihat "some shall depart other places in Scripture, not evil spirits, from the faith, giving heed to seducing but deceased men and angels, those mespirits and doctrines of devils, speaking diators and intercessors between God and lies in hypocrisy, having their con
men. The Spirit, therefore, declares that sciences seared with a hot iron; forbid- they should not only apostatize after the ding to marry, and commanding to ab- manner of the Jews, but adopt the idolastain from meats.” Some shall depart or trous theology of demons, professedly the apostatize from the faith. One of the Gentiles. And, surely, the worshipping most distinguished Protestant divines, of saints and angels now, is in all respects who have doubled the propriety of ap- the same that the worship of demons was plying this passage to the Romish"church, in former times. The name only is difassigns as his principal reason, that it ferent; the thing is identically the same, has never avowedly cast off the profession of Christian faith. But, in fact, an
* What is said here of the apostasy being the result of the teaching of demons, as in Co
lossians ji. 22, well answers to what is said to • Com. in loc.
the Thessalonians of the working of Satan, in † Lectures on the Catechism, p. 167. the deceit there predicted.” – Elliolt's Hor. Bloomfield.
Apoc., p. 833.
and even the ceremonies with which this tity, and abstinence under pretence of worship is accompanied, are remarkably devotion. That these particular kinds of similar. The burning of incense, the hypocrisy should be adopted, none but sprinkling of holy water, the lighting of the Spirit could have foreseen-yet this candles, the hanging up of offerings, the pretended purity and mortification have canonization of deceased worthies, attri- had an important bearing on their sys. buting miraculous powers to their bones tem of belief, securing a greater reveand relics—these and a hundred others rence to their persons, and a readier reare equally parts of Pagan and Romish ception to their doctrines. superstition.
But while we cannot do other than reThe Apostle proceeds to show by what gard this prediction as marking the aposmeans this apostasy should be introduced tasy of Rome, we admit, that Rome only and established. Speaking lies in hypo- inherited and shared this apostasy. It crisy—or rather, through the hypocrisy has been proved-by Protestant writers*, of liars, having their conscience seared too,--that this description cannot be equiwith a hot iron. And has not the ido- tably applied to the Papacy, as distinlatry of the Romish church, and the wor- guished from the church Catholic; since ship of the dead, particularly been diffus- every characteristic of it would have had ed through the world by such instruments its accomplishment in the ecclesiastical and agents as have changed the truth of system of the fourth century, even if no God into a lie, and worshipped and serv- such despotism as that of Rome had afed the creature more than the Creator. terwards come into existence. NeverIt were impossible to relate the falsehoods theless, we apply it to her also, because which have been obtruded upon mankind this idolatry and asceticism have affected by monks and priests and bishops,—the in an equal degree, the western church, fabulous books, legends, miracles, appa- where indeed they have assumed their ritions, or even persons, which have been most severe and regulated form, and they imposed upon the credulity of mankind. are still extant among us, unaltered in The confidence with which their authors principle and practice, as main elements have declared them shows that their con- of Romanism. sciences must have become seared. As We may now proceed to consider the when a heated iron is applied to a morti- other prophecies, which relate to this fied limb, to destroy the sensibility of the subject. St. Paul refers to some of these diseased part, so they seem to have sur- in the passage already considered. “'The rendered themselves to the influence of Spirit speaketh expressly.” Some have some false and pernicious principles, and found the place where it is written, in the from deceiving others, have, them- book of the Prophet Daniel, and the reselves been permitted to believe the lie, searches of the learned have left no and become incapable of discerning at all doubt, that if that be the original, this is the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. a faithful copy. But St. Paul had him
There are two particular features of self in previous epistles spoken of these this apostasy added to this general de- things, according to the wisdom given scription. The same impostors who unto him—and some have supposed that should promote the worship of demons, he was here reiterating his own testimoshould also be found forbidding to marry, ny. Be this as it may, since Paul and and requiring to abstain from meats ; Daniel were moved by one and the same and surely the Romish church is noto- Spirit, and as St. John also, in his Episrious for enjoining celibacy upon her tles and the Apocalypse written afterclergy and religious orders, and com- wards, omitted not these among the things manding certain limes of fasting, making which must be hereafter; we may apply a vain distinction of meals, making the to them all, the assertion of the apostle, tasting of flesh a mortal sin. It is the rule and glory of the monastic orders, to * Ancient Christianity, Am. Ed., p. 406—20, abstain from meats and marriage. Celi- Joseph Mede was equally discriminate and bacy was adopted under pretence of chas- impartial. See Faber's Letters,