Page images
PDF
EPUB

nians to be under fuch confternation, to be fhaken in mind and to be troubled, that the wrath is come upon them to the uttermoft, as the apoftle faith, (1 Theff. II. 15, 16.) who both killed the Lord Jefus, and their own prophets, and have perfecuted us; and they pleafe not God, and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be faved. It was matter of confolation, rather than of trouble or terror to the Theffalonians; and as fuch the apoftle mentions it in his former Epiftle.

5. But of all the applications of this prophecy none is more extraordinary than that of the late profeffor Wetstein, the learned and laborious editor of the New Teftament with the various readings and copious annotations. "By the man of fin and the wicked one he (1) underftands Titus or the Flavian family. The mystery of iniquity was then working, because at that time Vefpafian had borne the office of conful, had received the honors of a triumph, and even under Caligula had entertained fome hopes of the empire. He who letteth was Nero, who was now adopted by the emperor." One is really afhamed and grieved to fee a scholar and critic fall into fuch abfurdities. What! was Titus then, as well as the emperor Julian, an apoftate? Was he, who was one of the best emperors, the love and delight of mankind, to be branded with the odious appellations of the man of fin and the wicked one? Even Domitian was not worfe than feveral other emperors both before and after him. How did Titus and the Flavian family oppofe and exalt themfelves above every God or emperor? How did they as God fit in the temple of God, jhowing themfelves that they were Gods? Why was Vefpafian's hoping for the empire the mystery of iniquity, more than Galba's, or Otho's, or Vitellius's hoping for the fame? When Nero was taken out of the way, were not these three emperors Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, all revealed before the Flavian family? How was the coming of Titus and the Flavian family with all power, and signs, and lying wonders,

(1) Intelligo Titum five domum Flaviamμυςήριον της ανόμιας, Eo tempore Vefpafianus confulatum jam gefferat, triumphalia acceperat, et

jam fub Caio in fpem imperii venerat. ὁ κατεχων, Nero jam adoptatus erat, &c. Wettenius in locum.

H 2

and

[ocr errors]

and with all deceivableness of unrighteoufnefs? How were their adherents and followers fuch eminently as received not the love of truth that they might be faced, but believed a lie, that they might be damned, and had pleasure in unrighteoufnefs? How were Titus and the Flavian family deftroyed in the deftruction of Jerufalem, when they were themselves the deftroyers of it, and reigned several years afterwards? Was there an illuftrious coming of Chrift, when Titus or any of the Flavian family died? Or how can the Lord be faid to confume them with the Spirit of his mouth, and to deftroy them with the brightness of his coming? It furpaffeth all comprehenfion, how this learned profeffor could think of fuch an application, without afking himself fome fuch queftions; or how he could ask himself any fuch queftions, without clearly perceiving the impoffibility of anfwering them. We cannot fuppofe that he would have made a compliment of his religion, but he hath certainly of his understanding, to Cardinal Quirini, in this inftance as well as in his comment upon the Revelation, which, (2) as he humbly hopeth will not difplease his eminency, and then he shall be tranfcendently happy.

It is a farther objection to Wetstein, as alfo to Grotius, Hammond, Le Clerc, and Whitby, that they are fo fingular in their opinions; they differ as much from one another, as from the generality of interpreters; and as they diffent from all who went before them, fo they are followed by none who came after them. If this prophecy was fulfilled, as thefe critics conceive, before the deftruction of Jerufalem, it is furprifing that none of the fathers fhould agree with any of them in the fame application, and that the difcovery fhould firft be made fixteen or feventeen hundred years after the completion. The fathers might differ and be miftaken in the circumstances of a prophecy which was yet to be fulfilled; but that a prophecy fhould be remarkably accomplished before their time, and they be totally ignorant of it, and speak of the accomplishment as ftill future, is not very credible, and will always be a ftrong prefumptive argument

(2) cui fi, uti fpero, vel interpretationem Apocalypfeos, vel conatum faltem meum non difplicuiffe in

tellexero, fublimi feriam fidera vertice. Idem de Interpret. Apoc. Tom. 2. p. 894.

againft

against any fuch interpretation. The foundation of all the mistakes of thefe learned men is their interpreting the coming of Chrift, of the deftruction of Jerufalem: whereas the context, as it hath been fhown, plainly evinces, and they themfelves at other times acknowledge, that it is to be understood of his coming to judge the world. They therefore bid fairer for the true interpretation, who apply this prophecy to events after the deftruction of Jerufalem.

6. Of those who apply this prophecy to events after the deftruction of Jerufalem, fome papifts, and fome perfons who think like papifts, contend that the character of the man of fin was drawn for the great impoftor Mohammed and it must be confeffed, that the portrait resembles him in many respects. He was indeed a man of fin both in life and in doctrin. He might be faid to fit in the temple of God, when he converted the churches. into mofques. He likewife rofe upon the ruins of the Roman empire; and the Roman empire is generally thought to be what withholdeth. But though fome features are alike, yet others are very much unlike, and demonstrate a manifeft difference. He was not properly an apoftate, for he and his countrymen the Arabians were not Chriftians but Heathens, though he made many Chriftians afterwards apoftatize from the faith. The mystery of iniquity, as we have feen, was working in the days of the apoftles: but there were not then any indications of the rife and increase of Mohammedifm; it fprung up of a fudden like a muthroom, whofe feeds the winds fcattered over the face of the earth. The apoftafy was to precede and introduce the man of fin, but this man of fin was the firft author of this apoftafy. And what is the most material, he never pretended to confirm his miffion, or authorize his doctrin by miracles. His coming was not with all power, and figns, and lying wonders on the contrary he (3) declared, that " "God had "fent Mofes and Jefus with miracles, and yet men "would not be obedient to their word; and therefore " he had now fent him in the laft place without miracles,

66

to force them by the power of the fword to do his (3) See Prideaux's Life of Mahomet, p. 26 and 28. 8th Edit. 1723, H 3

"will,"

"will."
Some of his followers have afcribed miracles
to him but as Dr. Prideaux obferves, "those who
"relate them are only fuch who are reckoned among
"their fabulous and legendary writers. Their learned
"doctors renounce them all, as doth Mohammed him-
"felf, who in feveral places in his Koran owns that he
"wrought no miracles."

7. Others of the papists affirm, that the apoftafy is the falling away from the church of Rome by the doctrins of the Reformation. But who then is the man of fin, Luther and his followers, or Calvin and his followers, or who for the proteftants are far from being united under any one head. Which of the proteftant churches exalts herself above every God and magiftrate? Which of them arrogates to herfelf divine honors and titles? Which of them pretends to establish her doctrin and disciplin by miracles? These things would be ridiculously and abfurdly objected to the proteftant churches, and more ridiculoufly and abfurdly ftill by the members of the church of Rome.

8. The greater part of the Romish doctors, it must be confeffed, give another interpretation, and acknowlege that (4) the fathers and the best interpreters underftand this unanimoufly of Antichrift, who will appear in the world before the great day of judgment to combat religion and the faints. But then they conceive that Antichrift is not yet revealed, that he is only one man, and that he will continue only three years and a half, But we have shown before, that the man of fin is not a fingle man, any more than the whore of Babylon is a fingle woman. The one as well as the other is to be understood of a whole order and fucceffion of perfons. The mystery of iniquity was working, and preparing the way for the man of fin even in the apoftles days: and is it not very extraordinary, that 1700 years fhould elapfe, and that he should not be yet revealed? What withholdeth, they fay, was the Roman empire; and the Roman empire might be powerful enough to hinder his ap

(4) Les Peres, et les meilleurs interprétes entendent unanimement ceci de lnte-Chrift, qui doit paroître dans le monde avant le grand jour du

jugement, pour combattre la religion
et les faints. Calmet Comment et
Differtation fur l'Ante-Christ,

pearance

pearance at that time, but how hath it withheld and hindered all this while? As this evil began in the apostles days, and was to continue in the world till the fecond coming of Chrift in power and great glory; it neceffarily follows that it was to be carried on not by one man, but by a fucceffion of men in feveral ages. It cannot be taking root and growing imperceptibly 1700 years and more, and yet florifh under its chief head only three years and a half. There needeth not furely fo much preparation for fo little effect. Neither are three years and a half a period fufficient for Antichrift to act the parts and to fulfil the characters which are affigned him; unlefs he hath alfo this property of divinity, that one day is with him as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

III. The detection of falfehood is the next ftep towards the difcovery of truth: and having feen how this paffage hath been mistaken and mifapplied by fome famous commentators, we may be the better enabled to vindicate and eftablish what we conceive to be the only true and legitimate application. The Theffalonians, from fome expreffions in the former Epiftle, were alarmed as if the end of the world was at hand, and Chrift was coming to judgment. The apoftle, to correct their miftakes and diffipate their fears, affures them, that the coming of Chrift will not be yet awhile; there will be first a great apoftafy or defection of Chriftians from the true faith and worthip. This apoftafy all the concurrent marks and characters will juftify us in charging upon the church of Rome. The apoftle mentions this apoftasy in another place, (1 Tim. IV. 1, &c.) and fpecifies fome articles, as doctrins of demons, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which will warrant the fame conclufion. The truc Chriftian worship is the worship of the one only God through the only one mediator between God and men, the man Chrift Jefus and from this worfhip the church of Rome hath notoriously departed by fubftituting other mediators, and invocating and adoring faints and angels. Nothing is apoftafy, if idolatry be not; and the fame kind of idolatry is practifed in the church of Rome, that the prophets and infpired writers

H 4

arraign

« PreviousContinue »