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men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore" (namely with a view to account for this spirit of infidelity) put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. These filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. These speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear; clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage. But beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit."*
66 As ye have heard that the Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists-Who is the liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.-Every spirit,
that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God: 'and this is that spirit of the Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world.”*
Let any one attentively compare together the two preceding sets of prophecies relative to the latter days, and the last days, and he will be convinced, that they cannot both relate to the same persons; and consequently that the latter days and the last days must be two entirely distinct periods of time. All the prophecies, as I have already observed, that relate to the latter days, speak of a great prevalence of superstition, as being the distinguishing feature of this period; while all the prophecies, that relate to the last days, speak of a great prevalence of blasphemous infidelity, as being equally the distinguishing feature of that period. In the account indeed which St. John gives of the principles of Antichrist, he uses the last time in the sense of the whole period of the Christian dispensation, because he uses it declaratively; but the reason of this will sufficiently appear, if we consider the import of the passage in which he describes the character of that great opponent of the Messiah.
Dr. Whitby supposes, that the Jews, who rejected the promised Saviour, are meant by Antichrist. Others have applied the character to Cerinthus and the Manichèans ; and others, to the impostor Barchochebas.† From the language however of St. John, who is the only inspired writer that uses the term, I am much inclined to think, that Antichrist, strictly speaking, is a sort of generic name, including all persons who answer to the description given of that character. Now the special badge assigned to the character is a denial of the Father and the Son: a denial of the Son positively, a denial of the Father either positively or by implication. All therefore, who answer to this description, are members of Antichrist. The existence of his blasphemous principles is commensurate with the whole period of the Christian dispensation: but
* 1 John ii. 18. 22. iv. 3.
See Pol. Synop. in loc.
his peculiar reign, his open developement, is confined to the last days of the last time. St. John tells his disciples, 66 ye have heard that the Antichrist shall come." This opinion that has ever prevailed in the Church respecting the manifestation of some great opponent of the Messiah at an era far remote from the days of the Apostle,* opinion founded no doubt upon the prophecies of Daniel, he by no means controverts: he warns them however to be upon their guard; inasmuch as there were many even then in the world, who were tainted with the principles of Antichrist, namely a denial of the Father and the Son. The harmony of the apostolical writers upon this point is very remarkable. St. John declares, that the spirit of Antichrist or Infidelity was already, even in his days, in the world; although it was not yet revealed, or exhibited to mankind in an embodied form. Daniel had given a description of the monster in his mature state, as a king or power that magnified himself above every god and spoke marvellous things against the God of gods; and St. John adds, that his detestable principles were already working, and would continue to work through the whole period of the last time, as meaning the Christian dispensation, though they would not be developed till the last days of the last time. In a similar manner, both St. Peter and St. Jude represent persons of the same principles as those which should be openly avowed and acted upon in the last days, as intruding into the feasts of charity usual among the primitive Christians, and consequently as contemporary with themselves.† Events have amply shewn the accuracy of these declarations. The opinions of Antichrist were secretly lurking in the Church even in the earliest ages: it has been our lot to behold thèm
* "The idea, which the early Christians in general formed of Antichrist, was that of a power to be revealed in distant times, after the dissolution of the Roman empire; of a power to arise out of the ruins of that empire." (Bp. Hurd on Prophecy, p. 221.) To this we must add the declaration of St. John, that the power in question should deny both the Father and the Son: and we shall then perceive, that the Antichrist, about to be revealed in distant times, about to arise out of the ruins of the old Roman empire, is certainly not the Papacy, as Bp. Hurd supposes, but a tyrannical state of a very different nature. The Papacy arose out of the ruins of the Empire, but it never denied either the Father or the Son. Antichrist is likewise to arise out of the ruins of the Empire, and is to be known by his denial both of the Father and
† See the preceding citations.
embraced without disguise by a whole nation. beginning of the monster was in the apostolic age for it were easy to trace the pedigree of French philosophy, Jacobinism, and Bavarian illumination, up to the first heresies. But it is now we see his adolescence."*
As for the papacy, it answers in no particular to the character of Antichrist as delineated by St. John.† The
*Bp. Horsley's Letter on Isaiah xviii.-See this matter shewn at large in the Abbè Barruel's Mem. of Jacobinism.
+ The title of Antichrist has usually been applied to the Pope by protestant expositors, and by the Waldenses and Albigenses before the era of the Reformation : but I cannot find, that they have any warrant from Scripture for so doing. The corruptions of the Papacy are largely indeed predicted under the name of an Apostacy; which was to consist partly in the superstitious will-worship of Saints, partly in the persecution of the pious, and partly in the exercise of a catholic tyranny over the Church and the Papacy itself is described under the symbols of a little born, a barlot, and a two-borned beast: but the Pope is no where, that I have been able to discover, termed Antichrist; for he never denied either the Father or the Son. The identity of Antichrist and the little born has been rather assumed, than proved.
Since this was written, my opinion that the Pope cannot be the Antichrist described by St. John has been strenuously though (I think) very unsuccessfully opposed by Mr. Whitaker. As my sincere desire is that the point may be thoroughly discussed, I shall subjoin the substance of my answer to him.
The statement of the whole question is simply this. St. John assures his disciples, that, at the very moment when he was writing, there were many antichrists already in the world: and he afterwards speaks singularly of one Antichrist, whom by way of eminence he styles the liar, and whose leading characteristic should be a denial of the Father and the Son. Here then we have many Antichrists and the Antichrist : and the former are declared to be contemporary with the Apostle. Now we know, that, when St. John lived, there was not in existence any embodied power, either the papal or any other power, that could in its corporate capacity be styled the Antichrist. Hence we may conclude, that his contemporaries, the many antichrists, were detached individuals professing some characteristic opinion which was the cause of their being so named; and, on the other hand, that the Antichrist is no individual, but a collective body of individuals. The question then is, What was the opinion of the many antichrists? Was it the same, or was it not the same, as that of the Antichrist, according to St. John's description of it? Does the Apostle give us any clue to ascertain this point? He explicitly declares, as if to prevent the possibility of error, that" every spirit, which confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God and this is that very essence or spirit of the Antichrist, which ye have heard shall come, and indeed even now is in the world." Thus it is plain that what St. John calls the spirit of the Antichrist, is a denial that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah manifested in the flesh. But, if this spirit, which is the spirit of the Antichrist, were in the world when St. John wrote, and if many individual antichrists, were likewise in the world at the same time; I know not what we can conclude but that these individual antichrists were men animated by the spirit of the Antichrist or the liar, which we are unequivocally told is a denial of the Son, and thence by implication a denial of the Father also. Accordingly St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Jude, all concur in asserting, that men, possessed by such a spirit as St. John calls the spirit of the Antichrist, even the very spirit which we have seen embodied in these last days, had at that early period insinuated themselves into the Church. How then can any thing that St. John here says prove the Pope to be the Antichrist, namely the Antichrist whose spirit was then in the world? All that the Apostle teaches his disciples is, that, since the delusive spirit of the Antichrist was already working, they might be sure that they were living in the last time or under the last dispensation, and 12
superstition of that great apostacy is indeed to continue to the very end of the 1260 days, and is therefore to be contemporary during the latter period of its existence with the reign of Antichrist: but the domination of that infidel tyrant is so strongly marked by atheism, insubor
need not look for any further dispensation. As yet however, although there were many individual antichrists in the world, the great Antichrist himself, whose special badge should be a denial of the Father and the Son, was not manifested. His spirit indeed was already working in the children of disobedience, but he himself was not as yet revealed: nor does the Apostle give us the slightest intimation, that his appearance would be connected either with the taking away of that which prevented the developement of the papal man of sin, or with the commencement of the 1260 years. On the contrary, wherever he mentions the Antichrist, he studiously and almost anxiously tells us, that his badge is a denial of the Messiahship of Jesus Christ.
Mr. Whitaker however argues, that, since I allow the man of sin to be the Pope; since the man of sin is said to oppose and exalt himself above every one that is called god or that is worshipped; and since the word, which St. Paul uses to express this opposition, is anticimenus: therefore, because the man of sin is anticimenus, or one that opposeth himself against all that is called god, he must be antichristus. This whole argument is founded on a misconception of the text. The gods, that the man of sin was to oppose, were mere earthly gods; in other words, kings and emperors. He was to oppose himself to every one that is called god, and to every thing august and venerable; to every sebasma, in allusion to sebastus or augustus the title of the Roman emperors. (See Bp. Newton's Dissert. on the man of sin.) Hence it is plain, that an opposition of this nature will not constitute the Pope Antichrist. Impiously as the Bishops of Rome have sat in the temple of God, shewing themselves that they are God, this has been done rather in conjunction with God, than in opposition to him. In the height of their profane madness, they never thought of denying either the Father, or the Son; but rather affected to act by their commission and under their authority, considering themselves as a sort of God upon earth and claiming to be the sole vicars of Christ. In short, the prophecy respecting the man of sin has been exactly accomplished in the Popes: but St. John's definition of the liar or the Antichrist, whose spirit was even then in the world, is by no means applicable to the Popes; because their characteristic mark as a body was not a denial either of the Father or of the Son.
If indeed we chose arbitrarily to annex some other idea to the word Antichrist than St. John has taught us to annex to it, I have no objection in this sense to say that the Pope is an antichrist, because he has ever shewn himself a most notorious enemy to the pure religion of the Gospel: so likewise has Mohammed, who comes much nearer to the character of St. John's Antichrist than the Pope, though even be never denied the Messiahship of Jesus Christ. But, so long as acknowledge the authority of the epistles of St. John, I must peremptorily deny that the Pope is the Antichrist: both because I am plainly taught, that the spirit of that liar was working even in the apostolical age, which the spirit of the Papacy was not; and because I am no less plainly taught, that, whenever the monster should be publicly revealed, he should be known by his denial of the Father and the Son.
Dr. Doddridge attempts to explain away this natural objection to the application of the character of Antichrist to the Pope; but in a manner, that to myself at least appears nothing better than a mere quibble. He says, that "Popery is an usurpation entirely inconsistent with a due homage to Christ," and therefore that the Papacy is Antichrist. But what has this to do with an express denial of Christ? It is surely a most unsatisfactory answer to those, who as he himself observes" have argued, that the Pope cannot be Antichrist, because he confesses Christ, and that it must necessarily be some entirely opposing person or sect, and which does not bear the christian name." (Paraph. 1. John iv. 3.) As little satisfactory to me is Pyle's gloss. (Preface to 1 John.)